Today I made the startling discovery that my novel may not be the longest piece of fiction I’ve ever written — it’s just the one I finished. My two previous attempts at novel-length work could surpass it in word counts.
I was digging around old files on the computer and I found the infamous “Chronicles of an Azalea” story which used to be on the web. I was writing it about my role-playing character Azalea, later known as Azae, for her history; it was a part of her character page. I ran the various parts of the story which I had entered onto the computer through Word and added up word counts, and came up with a figure I was not expecting. The nine parts of CA that were available online, along with the first few scenes of part ten which I had been working on, add up to more than 46,000 words.
As I discovered in a notebook the other day, there is more to the Chronicles than I’d put on the computer. In handwriting, part ten is finished, which completes “book one,” and the first part of “book two” are also written. While I can’t get an exact count of these words, based on the length of previous sections I estimate that these easily surpass 50,000 and may even approach the novel’s count of over 54,000 words.
As if that weren’t enough, I looked over at the notebooks containing my first attempt at a novel and realized that simply by sheer amount of pages, it might be longer than the Chronicles when it comes to word count, though there might not be quite as many words per page because my handwriting was sloppier and larger on older parts. (Chronicles: 216 pages, Rowan: 256 pages.) Either one or both of them could be as long as or longer than Death Lurks Here.
The only difference between the three, then, is that I stuck to a definite ending in my third novel, and I made it come earlier because I was running out of time. Rowan and Chronicles both grew so long because new plot twists kept popping up, which I grabbed at eagerly, and caused me to keep delaying the end. At last plan with either of them, the Chronicles was expected to be around two-thirds of the way finished and approaching a climax, but Rowan’s planned storyline caused me to estimate that I was only about halfway through. Had I finished all three, Death Lurks Here would definitely have been the shortest.
Of course, Death only took me twenty-eight days to write. The schedule forced me to keep very organized and near-rigid when it came to planning the story and how long each part would take. I didn’t have that with the others, and it may have been a lack of dedication that kept each from being completed — I would start, write a large amount in a few days, then abandon it for weeks or months before coming back and adding some more. The goal was hazy and with the ending constantly changing, it was easy to lose interest and eventually stop writing altogether because I had nothing I felt I was working towards.
I spent two years to get the Chronicles to the point it is now. Rowan is harder to estimate; I wrote the first words in spring of 1997 but didn’t come back to it until as much as a year later (I can’t remember when, now). Then I kept working on it off and on until a year ago, but sometime by then I’d given up on the original draft and tried to start afresh. I don’t know when I wrote page 256. It may have been some time in early 2000. So Rowan took about three years to get to this length.
Why don’t I work on revising one of those if I spent so much time on them, or at least try to finish the first draft? Rowan is too tangled and the first draft too much of a writing exercise that kept changing for me to sort it out; I do have plans to recycle some elements of the story and certainly the characters, but I doubt I could use any of my original words. Start over from scratch, basically. On the other hand, I’ve tried to start over from scratch so many times that it’s frustrating; I stick with an idea long enough to write notes about it but rarely to write more than a few pages of actual story.
The Chronicles I could finish. I agree with the early parts of the story to some degree, enough to continue it, and I still know well where I planned to go with it. I think I should try to finish the draft (as a Pern fanfic still) before I try to do any revising, and then I have some ideas about a new non-Pern world of my own that I could set it in for the rewrite without changing the basic elements of the story. I also, when looking over it last night, realized what the story’s purpose was, the main point I was going off of: something I never had with Rowan. There was one in the Chronicles that I was half-aware of, so I put it into writing and it could easily direct the rest of the story now.
In short, the main character Azalea doesn’t know what she wants. A number of different people try to use her for their own purposes during the course of the story, and she half-willingly lets herself be directed by a lot of them, but in the end (the transformation of the story) she breaks away and takes control of her own life.
I think I can work on it now. First I want to type up the rest of what I have written and get an actual word count; this will be a good review of what’s just happened, a way to get me back into the swing of the story. Maybe I’ll put it back online as well so other people can read it. I also plan on trying to apply some of the organizational systems that I used in writing Death to this novel as a way of giving it more structure and myself a definite plan that I can feel I’m following.
Yeah, I know, I probably do this every three months or something. “Oh, I know what I’m going to do now! Off to writing!” And then I don’t do a whole lot or even anything and end up back here, whining that all my writing sucks and I’ll never be an author. I can’t help it, though. I’ve been around all these Wrimos who are editing their Nanovels and talking about it, and I want to get in on it but I’m not ready to go back to mine, so I’m going back to something older to satisfy my writing urges. I need to write something. I might as well work on something that’s already got a lot done on it already! (I didn’t realize how much. I mean, 46,000 words! I thought I was a goddess when I reached that point in November. Turns out I’d already been there before. Hah!)