I’ve mentioned before that I rewrite as I go when I work on a book. This time, for the Lux novel I’m working on, I felt as though I’d written too lean. I have a habit of doing that. So before I reached the last chapters, I went back and polished everything I’d already done. I added a character because I thought the story needed it. And as always, I added more description and details. Then I read the first chapter to my writers’ group on Wednesday, and they wanted even MORE description. I must have REALLY written lean this time:)
The result is, I think I’ve made this book too short, but that’s how I’d planned it when I started out. I intended to self-publish it on Amazon. When I write a Muddy River, I purposely aim for about 60,000 words. I’ve said many, many times that I’m a plotter. I’m not only a plotter, I pretty much know how many plot points I need to get the number of words I want.
For a Muddy River book, I write out 30 plot points. 30 plot points usually equate to 60,000 words for me. IF, which I don’t, I wrote chapters that were at least 10 pages, I’d end up with 300 pages and close to 70,000 words, but many of my chapters are much shorter, sometimes only 6-8 pages, so I need the 30 points to reach the word count I want. And 30 always have worked on Hester, Raven, and their supernatural friends. So, when I sat down to plot Lux, I made myself come up with 30 ideas and an extra one for good measure. But I don’t have as many descriptions and as many characters in this mystery. Hester and Raven meet friends at Derek’s bar to discuss what’s happening, and they travel back and forth to interview people in other towns. That doesn’t happen with Lux, so I’m coming up short on words. I had to come up with a few extra ideas. I could have FORCED each chapter to be longer, but then the writing would FEEL forced. This book has a fast pace I like. Right now, I’m at 50,000 words with three more plot points before I finish the story and I still need to polish the chapter I worked on today. That will add words. It always does, but I’m not sure I’m going to able to summon even 60,000 before I write The End. No problem if I still planned to self-publish.
BUT, I like this book so much, I’d really like to find a publisher for it. Most publishers want at least 70,000 words for a mystery, though, and there’s NO WAY I’m going to make that. To come up with a book that length, I plot out 40-45 plot points and end up with about 35 chapters. I just don’t have enough to make Lux a longer book, and the thing is, I really like it the way it is. I don’t want to tear it apart and rework it to make it longer. So I have a dilemma.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’ve always believed in sending in stories I believe in, with the idea that my agent or editor can always turn me down. And if they do, then I can self-publish. But my fearless critique partner, M.L. Rigdon, swears I write sparse enough, she can find lots of places for me to expand descriptions that will make the book better and the right length. I’ve learned an important lesson, though. The next time I write a Lux novel, I’ll need more plot points just because her books don’t have as many “down” times or “soft” scenes that my other books have. They move faster, so they need more ideas to fill them.
Toward that end, I came up with a list to fill out before I start plotting my next one. It should give me more characters to choose from and more things to keep in mind: (and remember, this is for mysteries):
- Who’s killed (the first victim), or what is the crime?
- Why is the crime committed?
- Who commits it? List how and when he commits it.
- Who are the suspects? At least two. Why are they suspects? Any more?
- Any witnesses? Innocent bystanders?
- What’s the ending? (I always know the ending before I start a book).
- Any special clues or red herrings? Any alibis or fake alibis? Accusations? (I don’t always know these before I begin and have to fill them in later).
- A subplot (something going on with a character besides solving the murder)
- A second subplot (smaller)
I usually don’t bother with answering all of these questions, but I’m going to make myself for the next Lux, because I know now that I’m going to need them.
Whatever you’re working on, good luck and happy writing!