I write too much

29 May

I write too much. This is one my biggest flaws as a writer, and cutting things down becomes one of my biggest (and most tedious) chores. This is the lesson I learned (and am still working my way out of) in my old novel, and the thing I have been trying so hard to avoid in my new one.

Maybe too much. I wanted to try to stick to just a few character points of view (like, oh say, four), rather than ten, like my old novel. I think showing a peripheral character’s POV on a situation can really shed light on the situation and showing a peripheral character’s POV on the main characters can really give depth to the main characters. The problem that arises is that when you write from a third person subjective stance and want to enter the head of a peripheral character, you have put “padding” around their thoughts with scene-setting and action.

In other words, you have to increase your word count exponentially for each new perspective you bring in.

That paid off beautifully in my first novel, although it made the length prohibitive for publishing. And I’ve been trying to avoid doing it in writing this new one from scratch.

Except for the part where I’m finding that I can’t avoid it, at least not upfront. I don’t know the overall situation in my new novel well enough yet to do that. I am finding it extremely useful to add in new scenes (::ca-ching::, ::ca-ching:: word-count register adding up those words) from the POV of characters whose POV I have no intention of leaving in in the final draft, just to understand their motives.

And it’s necessary that I do this. I am discovering all sorts of interesting things about the characters whose only purpose in the story is to make things more complicated for my main characters. I am discovering their motives, and *why* they are making my character’s lives more complicated, and in the end, when their POV scenes drop back out, I will have a richer story for it.

But right now, for right now, it’s giving me a bit of anxiety. Because I’m editing my old novel at the same time I’m writing my new one, and the goal in the first case is to cut out words (>36,000 at last count), while the goal in the second case is to write my brains out until a story starts emerging.

It’s no wonder sometimes I put the computer away and escape to paint brushes and power tools.

10 Responses to “I write too much”

  1. cactuswatcher May 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Just like anything else in a novel, there should be a reason for multiple changes of view point in a novel other than it’s a convenient way to impart new info. I feel like my novel got totally out of hand lengthwise, because I was trying to tell the same story from too many angles. At least two view points were necessary to tell the story I wanted to tell. It was fundamental to the structure of the story. But without me thinking about it, I really got carried away with letting the reader have direct access to what too many characters were thinking.
    Don’t worry about it this time, but for your next novel, ask yourself if your changes of view points are fundamental to the development of the story or are they just a way to pass on info that could be handled in a different way.
    Of course the reverse can also be true. Not changing the point of view can lead to excessive length as well. Through the whole series, poor Harry Potter had to be drug all over the countryside, adding page after page of why he was going here and there, so J. K. Rowling wouldn’t have to change the point of view very often. ;o)

  2. spiletta42 May 29, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    Well, you can always post the deleted scenes as fanfiction once you’re published. It could prove interesting to see if anyone catches on.

  3. neshaffer May 29, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    Why is it everyone assumes I delete entire scenes? I never do. I shave, shave, shave, one word at a time.

  4. neshaffer May 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    I had that criticism of HP as well. She had poor Harry hiding under tables and invisibility cloaks in every other scene after a while.
    My old novel was about point of view in many ways, and so it was impossible to remove any points of view and tell the story I wanted to tell. In the new story, I just want to figure out all my characters, the scenes will fall out of subsequent drafts.

  5. zargon10 May 30, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    Well, I guess I’m confused about why you need to cut words? I see that you are working on this a lot, and I”m just wondering why you would need to do this? I can see if the bits you’re cutting don’t add to the story you are telling but if you’re adding new scenes that are important, than why? I don’t know anything about writing novels or writing to get published, so I probably don’t know ‘ the rules’.

  6. neshaffer May 30, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    It boils down to this: my old novel is currently 192,000 words. That’s twice as long as any first-time unknown writer’s novel should be if they hope to publish. And my new story, going on what I’ve written so far, is promising to be just as long.

  7. zargon10 May 31, 2010 at 6:06 am #

    hmmm..maybe this is a silly idea, but if you have so much good material, can your book become a series or even 2 completely different books?

  8. neshaffer May 31, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    LOL, no, those are very *good* suggestions that actually several people have made on multiple occasions, and I would supply the links back to my explanations, but suffice it to say it’s a character portrait that happens over a short period of time, and doesn’t really lend itself to that.

  9. zargon10 May 31, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    darn, i figured it was too easy or you would have already had an answer. i just find it a strange rule that the novel has to be under a certain length. i would think if it was interesting, it wouldn’t matter how long it is. i only think books are too long when i don’t enjoy reading them (David Copperfield comes to mind).

  10. neshaffer May 31, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    Well-known writers get away with it all the time. First time writers? Not so much.

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