WIP: Size Does Matter

I know I’m in countdown phase now because I am living, drinking and eating this story. I have pages in front of me at mealtime, it’s my before-sleep reading material, and I’ve set up permanent residence at the computer. Yesterday I was in front of the desktop from sun-up (slight exaggeration–I’m never anywhere at sun-up) until about 7, at which time I realized that if I continue re-writing this draft as I have been, adding details and deepening the characters, the book is going to be too long. 
I’m contracted to write books of 100,000 + words. That roughly translates into 400 manuscript pages.  My books usually run 425-500 manuscript pages.  If I continue as I have been on this one, it will easily top 500 and I think that’s too long. Sometimes a story demands that length, but I don’t think this one does and I need to be more judicious in my editing. Easier said than done.
At the same time that I realized I was going over length, I hit a place in the story that wasn’t working for me structurally. It made me panic. I expect to have numerous mini-panic attacks during these few weeks before the July 1 deadline, but knowing I will have them and enduring them are two different things. I reminded myself this is the challenge I love–figuring out how to make a story work. I took the 180 pages I’ve re-written so far onto the porch to read as a reader would so I could see the flow. (An aside: I know I’ve mentioned this a zillion times, but I adore finally having a porch! It has a ceiling fan and I stretched out on the faux-wicker sofa and read until midnight, listening to the barred owl hooting in the woods behind my house and the deer [at least I hope they were deer] snapping twigs as they nibbled their way through my yard. By then a lot of itty bitty critters had found their way through the gap in the screen door and were flying around, but I didn’t care. It was soooo lovely out there!)
porch for blog.jpgAs I read, I discovered a few things: the pace, structure and characterization of those first 180 pages work; some of the writing is excellent; a couple of things made me laugh (rare in my books); and some of the writing was wretched. I had a pen in my hand and wrote blechhhh! next to those parts, which was my reaction to reading them and which will let me know where I still have work to do. 
After reading that chunk of the book, I have a good sense of how to tweak the structure, and that’s what I’ll work on today.
Now, for any guys who have read this long post looking for the information promised in the subject line: size really doesn’t matter.  Not to the sort of women who read my books, anyway.


  1. Beth J. on May 28, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    You are so right – size doesn’t matter as you have a way of writing just the right amount of words to make the story hold ones interest all the way through.
    I’m so excited that this book is almost to the deadline and that this book is on the way to becoming another one for my bookcase next year.
    Keep up the good work.
    Beth J.

  2. Diane Chamberlain on May 28, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    hi beth! i’ve been thinking about you lately. thanks for popping in.

  3. Margo on May 29, 2007 at 8:58 am

    Your writing is always perfect and I don’t think it would matter if the book was 400 pages or even 700 pages, it would be awesome. It must be awfully hard to edit down pages tho. All those wonderful, creative words woven into a pattern and great descriptions, how would you know what to ‘cut’? I LOVE YOUR PORCH D! Looks so comfy with a beautiful view of trees and probably lots of birds. I think I’d be having some snacks and peanut m&m’s sitting on that table, tho.

  4. Kathy Holmes on May 29, 2007 at 10:55 am

    What a great spot! Location really inspires my writing – the screened lanai, in particular, was very inspirational for my book, “RWWR.”
    But 100,000 words – oh my, I’m so impressed. My manuscripts never seem to exceed 80,000. 🙂 Good for you for getting to the home stretch.

  5. Diane Chamberlain on May 29, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    any snacks on the coffee table would be eaten by the dogs. i left a bag with two gigantic snickerdoodles (from great harvest) on my island the other day–my island is high and i knew keeper could counter surf, but i didn’t know he could stretch quite that high. the boys LOVED the snickerdoodles.
    anyhow, as for cutting, it is hard. what i ask myself is “does this scene move the plot forward or show us something we don’t already know about the character?” if it doesn’t, it’s gone, no matter how good it was.
    kathy, a lanai! where do you live??

  6. brenda on May 29, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Are your pages doublespaced??? or single????
    Your books are always the right length. Some contemporary authors publish a long book and a shorter book EACH YEAR…the shorter ones are sometimes disappointing…but I think, on the other hand, some books are way too long…

  7. Diane Chamberlain on May 29, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Doublespaced. An editor won’t even look at a single spaced manuscript.

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