Friday, December 11, 2009

Above CLoud Nine?

Where have the last five weeks gone? They say time flies when you're having fun. Have I had fun? Did I achieve my goal? Here's how the word count on the novel has changed over five weeks ...

Draft 1 = 132,936 (what I brought with me)

Draft 2 = 129,171

Draft 3 = 118,066

Draft 4 = 103,002

The difference between the first draft and the fourth draft is some 29,934 words, so I think I can claim to have met my target. Now I've examined it in this much detail, I think it's still possible to cut further.

I'm used to cutting a 2,500 word article to 800 words, which many may see as 'drastic' cutting. But with non-fiction, there are ways of doing this easily. It's not necessary to use complete sentences, for example. But that I mean:
  • We can break the text with bullet points.
  • Produce succinct, detailed lists.
  • Provide website addresses for further information.
  • Use sub-headings to link two unconnected paragraphs together.
Cutting 132,936 words of fiction down to 103,002 has been different. It relies more on language. Cutting the adverbs and replacing them with active verbs improves text. Instead of saying, "he ran quickly", 'he dashed" is shorter, yet conveys more action.

I found some wonderful pieces to delete. Here's an example:

"Don't be stupid, you can't ..." said Felicity, stopping in mid sentence.

Er? What was with the 'stopping in mid sentence' bit? Do I think that the reader can't work out that Felicity's dialogue is not a complete clause and the ellipsis ( ... ) at the end, doesn't give the game away? Anyone remember the catchphrase "Stand back in amazement"? When I read that it was "stand back in embarrassment"!

The end result is a novel I am happier with. Along with some structural chapter changes (Draft 1 was 25 chapters, Draft 4 has 71) I've also cut a couple of minor plot lines. The result is, in my opinion :-), a far pacier novel.

So, publishers and agents in 2010 need to brace themselves. Aldermaston's Anarchy could be coming through a letterbox near them soon!

I have to go now and start packing. As you can see from the picture above, the weather here has been fantastic recently. Yesterday, I literally was, above cloud nine ... well, 2,635 feet anyway. There can't be many times when you learn a new word at 2,635 feet, but yesterday was one of them. The word was 'Fogbow'. I was chatting to another photographer at the summit of a mountain, who'd said that he'd seen a strange sight the day before from the same summit. It was like a rainbow, only pure white. He took a picture of if and emailed it to the Met Office. They'd told him, it was not a 'rain'bow, but a 'fog'bow. It's rare in the UK, purely because the sun has to be low in the sky, and the geology of the surrounding landscape needs to be right (which is rare in the UK). Unlike a rainbow, the water molecules in fog are far smaller, so less sun is refracted, hence the whiteness. To see what one looks like click here.

Excuse me, but that's just given me an idea for an article ... I'm off now. See, that's what I like about the Lake District. Inspiration everywhere. I wonder if I'm doing right by going back?

Hmm, we'll see!

Good luck!