Wednesday, July 13, 2011

mapping the coastline

I am learning that I am utter pants at estimating the wordage it will take to cover some chunk of plot. Pathetic is what. In April, when I was coming up on 105k, I thought I might be finished with another 10-15k. Now I'm nudging 140k, and losing hope that I'll be done at 150k. 160?

Griffin joining King Charles's ill-thought-out excursion of the second war against the Scots? I figured that would take up maybe 10k, a chapter and a half, maybe another 5k, tops, to get him back home.
What did it take? 30k, not counting the getting home part.

Lately I've been filling in Alice's storyline, and needed to set up the fellow she eventually marries, a thatcher. So I went back to the fenland riots and gave him the task of getting the sedge-loaded barge up to the sluice gates and burning them down. A couple of paragraphs should have done that, right?
But when I'm there with him, hearing the sedge burn, smelling the smoke and the wet wood of the gates, I realise that it couldn't have been that easy, and that the barge has to (magically) move to block his escape. He has to make it out of course, to marry Alice, but it couldn't have been that simple.
Ah, it's the coastline paradox in action. Beforehand, the distance to be traversed looks fairly smooth and simple. But when I'm on the ground, looking around, that wiggly-but-mostly-straight line turns out to be deep-cut zig-zags of little coves and beaches and ravines and inlets. How far inland should I follow an inlet before I decide that I've lost the coast? How far out should I follow a promontory before I risk getting cut off by the tide?
How closely should I follow the coast?

I imagine it as the coast one gets here in the Pacific Northwest, trees to the land's edge, crumbling rocks, crunching barnacles and slippery kelp, skimpy little beaches reachable only from the water. And somehow I have to traverse it before the end of the month, because in August I'm off to Pennsylvania for 3 weeks.
I wonder if there's a Search & Rescue operation for writers?


Terri-Lynne said...

I know exactly how you feel about the lameness of being able to predict word count. When I was at around 115K, I thought, 'Wow! I'll actually get this one in at 130K!' But now I'm at 150K and still not finished. I'm not far! But I'm not even going to TRY to say how much longer it's going to get. I'm just not!

batgirl said...

I used to wonder how people wrote 200k+ manuscripts. Lately it's becoming horribly comprehensible.
It will be as long as it needs to be. Then I'll go back and cut it.
You're at 150? Go Terri!

Terri-Lynne said...

I was hoping to avoid a massive cut this time around. I have more leeway. If I get it in over 130, I'm fine, as long as it doesn't go toooo much over. I could probably get away with 150K. Eric actually published a 200K SF just after mine. (Small press...YAY!) But I'm still going to tighten it as much as possible. I don't want excess just because I can get away with it.

batgirl said...

I have an okay to go big this time because of more characters and more history - but I'm not sure _how_ big.

There are all these huge 400+ page books coming out, have you noticed? Maybe we'll catch a trend.

Terri-Lynne said...

I'd love to put out a 400 page tome. How fun would it be? But I found that the last few years writing within a certain word count has trained me to write 150K-ish novels. It's like my brain has an inner-track it knows how to plan for.

batgirl said...

I wish my brain had a running wordcount. I'm starting to think I've written two books in one.