One of the results of my big critique, was the request that I lengthen my manuscript by a thousand words. A thousand words in the course of fifty thousand is only, well, it’s one fiftieth. I wasn’t daunted by the prospect. I was ready…right up until my computer ate the first eight hundred words I’d added. It happened during a reboot following a software update. How ironic, in the process of updating my software, I backdated my manuscript.
“Nooooo!” I wailed and rummaged through every file to which the computer may have autosaved. Nothing. Zip, zilch, nada, zero. Not even a meltdown. Instead I’ve simply begun again, and so far, these new words may even be better than the last lot…from what I can recall anyway.
This obsession with word length that some publishers have, has been cause for some conversation between myself and some other writers of late. There’s been a bit of moaning, some authorial outrage about words for the sake of words rather than for the sake of enhancing the story or progressing the plot. I’m not taking this viewpoint.
I think there is a point where inspiration and creativity must meet with hard work. This is what makes a writer. The work. At some point we have to leave our happy imaginary worlds in an attempt to apply some order to our work. We have to apply our vocab, our understanding of plot arcs, characterisation, and a bit of clever nous to our initial creation. True, it’s a bit dull and a lot less fun than the initial daydreaming phase of writing, but it’s still writing.
As things stand at the moment, I’m four chapters into my expanded rewrite and eight hundred words richer. And when I say richer, that’s precisely what I mean. Whether or not the publishers’ word limits are random, the story is richer, more developed and better for my efforts. I’m working hard and I’m liking the result.
Strangely, it’s in this zone, where creativity and craft skills meet, I feel most like a writer. What about you, when do you most enjoy your job? (And no, you can’t say ‘quitting time’ because that’s cheating!)