Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Novel or Novelette?

An interesting thing happened on the way to the ending of my fifth Greg McKenzie mystery. I stepped up my output in the past couple of weeks and am now significantly past the halfway mark, which is 35,000 words since my books usually run around 70,000. However, I am not siignificantly close to this latter figure. What makes it interesting is that I am quite close to the final chapter.

As anyone who has paid attention (both of you) knows, I do not outline or plot ahead. I start with a premise and some characters and let the story go where they take it. Reading through what I have written so far, there are plenty of plot complications, a sufficient number of suspects, and a nice twist to the conclusion. But so far I have only written a novelette.

Not to worry. This has happened more then once. What I need to do is go back and find a good spot to take off on a new subplot that will complicate things even more.

One reason my books don't occupy an inordinate number of pages is my writing style. I like to keep things terse. I don't go in for long pages of description, and I don't telegraph every move my characters make as they go through the day. Greg, in whose voice the story is told, doesn't go in for a lot of instrospection. Most of what he has in mind is expressed through dialogue.

I suppose I could use the Robert B. Parker method and ask the publisher to use bigger type and wider margins. That would make the book look larger with fewer words.

I'll probably go ahead and finish the story, then backtrack to find places where I can beef it up with new situations that will dazzle the reader. Do readers dazzle? Oh, well, I'll keep plowing on and see how the old ball bounces. That's an apt metaphor since the book is titled A SPORTING MURDER and involves a conflict between supporters of professional basketball and pro ice hockey. Hmm, you might say the puck stops here.


Jean Henry Mead said...

We're in the same boat, Chester. I'm nearly halfway through my fourth Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel and my characters are in such peril that I have no idea how to top their current predicament for the conclusion. I much prefer second drafts. :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Looks like my standalone suspense novel is going to be a little skimpy as well. However, as a reader, I appreciate a good mystery/suspense story that isn't full of obvious filler. A good fast read can't be beat, so don't add too many dazzling situations, Chester.

Beth Terrell said...

Chester, I don't know if readers dazzle, but as a reader, I am often bezdazzled.

The thing I usually end up having to add is emotional depth. The first draft is a sketchy, "and then this happened." Except in my current WIP, in which the characters are doing way too much thinking.

Mark W. Danielson said...

It's not the length of the book that matters, but rather the quality of its content. One of my favorite books is a collection of short stories, and my favorite short story in that book is only a paragraph long. It describes a chicken going into a building and coming out again. I'm not sure why I find that story so amusing, but it proves how just a few words can create a fun image. Best of luck, Chester.

Sheila Deeth said...

That's actually rather comforting to this aspiring writer, since I always have to lengthen my first drafts. Thanks.

Chester Campbell said...

Sounds like I'm in good company. Better get back to my laptop, where I do most of my novel writing. Cheers, everyone.