Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] Rubric's cube, or at least number line


My email box constantly assures me that size matters. Apparently I am the little guy at the club. (Club? What club? Famous Writers' Club? Club Dread?)

Unfortunately, my editors also assure me that size matters. For example, I began writing "The Baby Killers" with the intention of creating a novella for an invited market. ABout 7,500 words in, my editor brain lit up and I thought, "Why the heck would they want a novella?" Turns out 6,000-7,500 words is the upper limit. My 20,000 word target is a wee bit overlength. I had somehow swapped two projects on my punch list, the other being an actual, invited novella.

Last night "The Baby Killers" crossed the 12,000 word mark. I'll write something else for the market in question, and I'll sell "The Baby Killers" somewhere else — I've already had one editorial query about it.

The interesting thing is that size really does matter. Most anthology invites have a pretty specific word count range associated with them. Novel contracts specify a word count for the final manuscript. What this means is that writing to length (which, naturally, includes the editing process) is a critical skill for a working pro.

I used to be really good at it.

Now, not so much.

There was a time when I could size an idea, target a short story length, and hit it within a few hundred words or less. The New Model Process has wreaked havoc on my ability to do this. Writing under that rubric, I still have some rough idea of class — short story, novelette, novella — but that's about it. Green's length was difficult to predict as well, though I believe I told arcaedia 185,000 words in first draft, and I only overshot that by about 13,000 words.

What does this mean? For me, mostly more rewriting, editing or cutting. Since my drift over the past few years has been to write long, and NMP absolutely reinforces that, this is ok. Turns out I'm a much better taker-outer than putter-inner. I admire tight, crisp prose in others, and that process helps tighten and crispen my own wordage.

But I have to admit, there was something cool about being able to call my shots. On the other hand, there's something cool about having a bit more mystery back in my writing.

Can you call length? Do you try?
Tags: green, process, writing

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