I wanted The Patience of Darkfall to be about 80K words. I know this, because “Harry Potter wordcount” is in my google search history at around the time I started writing. At the time, that number seemed ambitious, but doable. I plugged it into Scrivener and began hammering away.
By the time it was done, printed in double-spaced courier, edited, and ready for querying, I had written 250k words. “Game of Thrones wordcount” was now in my google history.
I’m sheepish about saying that, because I often see people dropping big numbers as if it’s a huge accomplishment — a boast. It is not. It’s stupid. It displays either a lack of foresight in researching industry standards or simple arrogance — my book is too epic for your pedestrian limits.
I would like to say I was only guilty of the former, but I’ll leave the fiction to my work. It was both. As I crested 150, I knew I was probably pushing it, but I didn’t want to research it because, well, my book is too epic for your pedestrian limits.
Plus, it was just fun, being caught up in the story and the flow, not wanting to hasten anything to an unnatural end. It wasn’t even until I hit 80K words that I realized what this book was about, what stories belonged in it and what stories belonged in future installments. Once I knew where I was going, I simply wrote at a pace that felt natural, and nudged each storyline toward its conclusion gently but firmly.
I knew I wanted a Game of Thrones-style novel, with concurrent storylines, rotating POV, and gobs of world-building trivia. I wanted to let one cliffhanger or revelation simmer, take the reader to another story for a while, then bring them back.
In the end, that’s what I did. I wrote a big, beautiful novel with two main storylines that resolve nicely while also setting up a great big series arc that will take me the rest of my reproductive years to put to paper. It kicks ass. I’m very proud of it.
You can’t read it.
It’s too big, and no agent or publisher will look at it. I know it, now that I’ve done just a little research. It hasn’t stopped me from sending a few queries (see previous paragraph about pedestrian limits). If I were George Martin, JK Rowling, or Tolkein’s reanimated, twitter-savvy corpse, maybe — maybe.
I’ll confess I’m not ready to self-publish. I want agents to swoon over it, publishers to fight over it, and readers to get angry at me for not getting its sequels out fast enough. I write fantasy worlds, why shouldn’t I live in one, at least for now?
So I’ve decided its time for surgery. If the crazy kids in this picture can survive apart, rock candy red peacoats and freak out random pedestrians with their Shining-twins smirk, then perhaps there’s hope for the stories in my book.
Impossible, you say? Damn right, it is.
Chang and Eng didn’t want to be separated. Who can blame them? Surgery in the 1800s was done with laudanum and post-hole diggers. Plus, their conjoined state earned them a living. Also, Chang was just hilarious to be around.
I just thought one of those fancy quote things really belonged here, you know?
Imagine if you were George Martin, minus the years of experience, publications, contacts, etc., sitting on an early draft of Game of Thrones. You have three major plotlines — Jon, Ned, and Dany. If you pull them apart, some might survive, but you’d lose the theme of simmering global conflict and political scheming that ties it all together. I don’t even think the separate stories would end up being in the same genre — though I’ll leave that speculation as a thought experiment for the comments.
With The Patience of Darkfall, I’m in a bit less of a bind. It’s mainly two stories, each centered around one MC (btw – if you’re coming to writing from a rap background, this hip abbreviation stands for “Main Character”). There’s a few chapters that connect them and address the series arc, but I think I can just chop those out or put them in the next book.
My twins are only conjoined at the elbow.
So, with the decision made and my knives sharpened, it’s time to cut. I’ll chronicle the process, in case anyone else finds themselves in a similar bind and wants to learn from my mistakes.
Thanks for reading,