Words Not Seen

Steph’s been hounding me for weeks to be able to read Genie Memories and tonight, I finally deemed it worthy to be read by others.  (I think all writers can attest to this feeling – “It’s not ready yet!).

Anyway, I store my chapters in separate files.  GM-1 for Chapter 1, GM-2 for Chapter 2, and so forth, so I combined them all into one file for easy printing and gave her the first 10 chapters.  It came out to 35 single spaced pages and 18,890 words.

So that got me thinking …

The genesis of Genie Memories was a scrapped young adult work entitled Zero.  I finished 8 chapters of that before realizing that it was a more grown up story.  Total word count – 21,660 (64 pages)

Genies was the next incarnation and I managed five chapters before realizing I had the wrong character and the wrong plot arc.  14,364 words and 38 pages.

The 1st draft of Genie Memories was the piece that I took to Viable Paradise.  Good story, but having it work-shopped by pros and fellow writers opened my eyes to a plethora of new plot arcs, character development, and things that I was just plain overlooking.  These 43,607 words or  111 pages became the basis for the second draft…

… which is now up to 20 chapters and roughly 33,639 words.  That will change, obviously, with editing.  I know of at least one entire chapter that will be gutted and there’s a lot of revision yet to happen.  In total, the story is a tad over half way complete.

And here’s the kicker – by happenstance, I also have open my ‘Abandoned Scenes’ file.  I keep one of these for every draft.  It’s where I put all the scenes that I’ve written but for whatever reason (story evolution, revisions, etc), they no longer fit.  So I put them in this file in case I ever need to pull them back out.  This file contains 14,739 words (28 single space pages).  That’s just shy of 10 chapters of material I’ve removed  from the second draft of the story.

For those keeping count, the total words written to date is 128,009.

The readers will never see these words and one might think they’re wasted but they’re not.  In fact, they are necessary for the writer.  I’m going to paraphrase something John Scalzi told my VP friend Catherine Schaff-Stump at Viable Paradise (original blog entry here):

Write down all the extra stuff that’s in your head.  Puff up the story and put in every tangent, bit of history, and whatever else you want to do.  All the characters, their clashes and problems, how they got into this situation, and their entire lineage if you want.  Play around because this is what teaches the writer about their story.  That’s what the first draft is for and it’s allowed to suck.

Then cut stuff out.  Ruthlessly.  Leave only what the reader needs to know.  And the writer knows what that is because they wrote it all down before.

So keep that in mind next time you pick up a book.   There’s an awful lot to the story you’ll never see.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s