Two days into the next novel in my series, and the word count is just over 5100. I’m excited about this one too. I’m picking up the story of two characters who played a small supporting role in the last one.
I spent my ‘rest week’ doing final edits and corrections to the first book in the series (the one currently out on submissions) which brought it up to 76,000 words – not bad for only five weeks’ work for the first draft, plus one week for revisions. I’ve never worked so fast. Steadily, but not necessarily fast. Six to eight months was the norm for me previously, to write a novel from scratch.
I’ve found it’s the new limitations I’ve set myself for writing Romance. A specific genre and style, with no more than two central characters taking centre stage, with very limited air-time for background characters. Not allowing the background characters to hang around just building up their roles, but ensuring they’re already developed enough to matter whenever they do appear. And if their air-time doesn’t require them to have a name – I don’t give them a name. If they need one, I’ll give it to them in another story of their own.
Also, a shorter word count. I’ve written tomes in the past ranging from 110,000 to 250,000 words. I felt my best work previously was an adventure of around 140,000. But I’m enjoying these shorter 75k-76k projects. The stories have to be tighter, which makes them more action-packed, with no room for padding. Just dive straight into the action or dialogue first – you’re not writing a film script, where you have to open with time of day, setting the scene, describing who is in the room/scene and then their positions and motivation – just jump in and grab the reader straight off…
In that same thread, do your build-up and planning before you write. I have read high-profile novels in the past that seemed to begin with verbatim exposition of the back-story and characters copied from the very notes that the author made in the pub earlier that day. Rather than use the skill of ‘show, don’t tell’ the author is telling the reader why this is happening, to whom, and where, alongside the history of the where and the personal failings of the whom until I feel as though I have accidentally opened a Wiki page or sat down with a local expert on the book rather than the actual book.
The other important thing, is to let go of anything I want to vent personally. The Romance novel is escapism. Not a soapbox for my own personality to jump aboard and start ranting and raving. Let the characters have their own issues – just enough for the reader to handle – but don’t have them leaping aboard every political and social bandwagon passing through the real world in the process of writing about them. I’ve learned it’s a good excuse to avoid following the news…