Monday, February 9, 2015
What I learned about writing The Sword From The Sea
I broke the rules with The Sword From The Sea. It's just over 5200 words, and according to the rules it has to be between 4500 - 5000.
My previous 2 stories in the sequence, The Iron Casque and The Gate In The Void, both came in at 7500+ in their drafts. I worked hard to slash the word count down to 5000 for both of them. Although it was tough I succeeded, and the stories were stronger because of it - it forced me to look at extraneous plot choices and indulgent passages.
With The Sword From The Sea, I didn't cut it below 5000. I tightened up everything I could but there just wasn't the fat in there that the other two had. I couldn't keep cutting without removing vital pieces of plot structure.
Some years ago I wrote a novella called Brand Of Cirgyl of around 23,000 words. I later decided it had to be under 20,000. I attacked it ruthlessly over about a dozen rewrites. At the end I'd taken out so much that it was essentially gibberish. I realized I'd broken it, although not how or why, and left it to gather dust. It never got under 20,000 words.
So in The Sword From The Sea, when I couldn't take out any more plot-related elements, and I realized I'd reached the limit on how much style and setting I could remove without maiming what I'd left behind, I stopped. I could feel that I was close to the edge of the precipice that had caused Brand's demise. The Sword From The Sea was 5200 words, which broke the rules (but left, I hoped, my story intact) and promised my self that I'd do the next story in 4800 words.
By now The Burning Sand is done. It came in at 4500 words.