The Long and the Short of It

One of my CPs, Christina, has just finished her manuscript, which we’ve affectionately named Kill Lil. A huge worry for Christina was that the book would come in at over 100k – she feared it might even reach 110k.

This got me thinking about why some people write ‘long’ and others (I count myself amongst these) write ‘short’. I wondered if there was a correlation between being a pantster or plotter and writing long or short. I’m a plotter – planning features heavily in all aspects of my life. When I start a book I have a full outline, but sometimes that isn’t enough, as I’ve discovered with my new YA – I’ve had to stop writing and do a scene spreadsheet, so I know exactly what is happening all the time.

The reason I think this encourages me to write short is because there isn’t a lot of room for me to deviate from (and maybe extend) my outline – that doesn’t mean I’m inflexible, I will change things that are obviously not working.

Any thoughts on this?

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8 thoughts on “The Long and the Short of It

  1. I’m thinking that your orange blog looks nice. Maybe I want an orange blog as well? Oh, right…you meant did I have any thoughts on writing long or short and being a plotter or a pantser? Perahps it’s all about scene choice? What we leave in, what we gloss over, what looks too hard so we just avoid all together (actually, that might just be me!). Hmmmm, I don’t think I’ve been any help at all here…

  2. Scene choice, yes that’s something to think about – as well as my fab new orange blog!

  3. Interesting question. When I targeted HM&B I outlined every single twist and turn and even noted exactly where each chapter break would occur. Those ones came in at round about the 50k mark.

    When I made the decision to try my hand at ST, I plotted much more loosely and the finished piece was about 80k.

    With Lil, all I had was how it began, roughly how it ended, and a few key scenes for the middle. And it finished up at 102k.

    OMG. I have NEVER thought about that before because not only am I not a panster, I also can’t write long books!

  4. I think you may be right on the plot/pants affectig lenght thing…

    Something else I’ve noticed affecting the length of my first drafts and my editing process… is how quickly I write the first draft.

    My fist 2 ms’s (the romances that are in a back drawer) I basically wrote a scene at a time, and went back to edit said scene until I was happy before moving on… When I hit an unexpected plot twist or character trait, I went back and re-edited from the start before I went forward…

    My later ms’s I wrote the first drafts much faster, forcing myself to go forward, writing without much if any editing. This method (for me) requires both more plotting ahead and more revisions after. But so far, I think, for me produces a better final product.

    Yes, the first draft is an incoherent piece of crap where secondary characters mentioned at the start morph into something else (or someone else). Even the protagonist often changes a lot and I have to completely change things at the start to make the character right. In the revisions process I’ve combinee characters, and split them in two… But it kinda works for me. With this “method” I’m starting to realize my first draft word count will be about 75% of the final word count. Sure, I’ll cut stuff–but it usually gets replaced by something else, and if I’m writing fast I’ll tend to leave out a lot of layering I need to add later.

    Boy, this response kinda rambled and went in a direction I didn’t expect!

    I like your blog, Sara. Thanks for visting mine 🙂

  5. I’m a huge plotter, just like you, Sarah. I do long synopses, chapter by chapter outlines, and storyboards and lists to keep track of what is happening in every scene.

    I also always write long. There’s always a point in every book where I htink, “Oh, there’s no way that I’m goign to hit the targetted word count! I don’t have enough story left.” And I always go between 10-15k over what I thought it would be.

    If there is a correlation for me it’s because I KNOW what is coming and what needs to be in the story, so the story has to be longer than planned to get it all out.

  6. I cannot write a quick and dirty first draft – no way, no how.

    I write a bit, go back and edit. Write a bit more, go back and edit. Come back the next day, go back to the start of the scene/chapter and read/edit. Then get to write some new pages.

    By the time I’ve got to the end of the book I know it off by heart – which can make it hard to read with a fresh eye.

    But the way I work does make the final edit much easier – because it’s mainly tweaking. And it does all fit in with having a detailed plan – that last sentence was me bringing it back round to the top under discussion, lol.

    Hey, Maureen and Diana – good to see you.

  7. Diana, I too get to the point when I think I’m not going to meet the word count. Trouble is, I’m usually right.

    The ace up my sleeve is sending the ms to my CPs, who are far more verbose than me, and great at identifying areas to develop – I had the same problem with academic writing (why use 10 words, when 1 will do)

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