And now we come to the math portion of our program.
I put all the pieces of the truck draft together in one file and checked the word count: 41,067. This is a fine word count for a book that’s 120,000 words long, but this one is aiming for 100,000. So I need to ax about 6,000 to 8000 words in the Paper Edit. And not just any words, I need to ax for pacing. Argh.
As some of you may recall, acts in a story in Crusie world must get shorter as the story progresses to escalate the action. In the same way, sections of an act need to get shorter as the act progresses. So I looked at the word counts on the sections of the draft you just suffered through with me, and thought about act turning points.
From the beginning to the first turning point, when the demon tries to shoot Nita in her house, it’s 16500 words.
From there to the Point of No Return when Nita leaves the diner no longer seeing Nick as the enemy, is another 7000 words.
From there to the crisis at Motel Styx is 13,000 words.
And from the crisis to the climax on Demon Head is 4500 words.
That’s a mess.
Let’s say I’m shooting for 32,000 to 35,000 words for this first act, about a third of the book which is what my first acts run, and I need each section to get smaller. That would give me, very roughly, sections that are 12000, 10000, 8000, 5000. I say very roughly because the big thing is that they get noticeably smaller not that they hit a particular word count.
So I have 16500 instead of 12000 and 7000 instead of 10000 in the section before the Point of No Return. That’s 23500 words instead of the 22000 (12000/10000) I’m aiming for so that’s actually not bad. The problem is the turning point is in the wrong place. I’m still going to cut the hell out of it on the paper edit, but it’s not egregiously off. Even better, Part One (the Nick and Nita parallel scenes) and Part Two (the scene sequence in the bar) naturally come out to about 12000 words. Even better than that, that’s naturally where Nick’s Things Get Worse is because that’s where Nita recovers from the scupper which tips him that she’s not human. And that’s also where Nita sees him as a skeleton; the problem there is that she thinks she’s hallucinating so it’s not a TGW for her.
Rewrite Goal: Somehow create a Things Get Worse for Nita at the end of the bar scene sequence.
Shifting Nita’s turning point shifts the word count distribution to 12000/11500, which means I need to get rid of about 1500 words in the double scene sequence and breakfast scene.. The good news is that we already know that double sequence drags at 8000 words, and the breakfast scene is way too long at 3500 words. So while that’s a lot of cutting, I already knew that was in the cards. .
Rewrite Goal: Cut the hell (1500-3000 words) out of that draggy double scene sequence and the breakfast scene.
Then that throws me into the section between the Point of No Return and the Crisis (Parts Five and Six) which should be about 8000 words tops. It’s 13,000 freaking words. I think Nita goes shopping in there. Argh. That’s going to be a bloodbath, but it has to be done. Frankly, that double scene sequence was self-indulgent, and the Max scene can be cut back a lot: Nick’s scene there is about 750 words and Max’s is 2500. That’s way too unbalanced for parallel scenes
Rewrite Goal: Cut the living hell (5000 words) from that section, mostly Part Five but a healthy chunk from Max’s scene, too.
And then there’s the Crisis to Climax section which should be about 5000 words and actually is 4,600. (That’s Part Seven.) I’m fairly sure I can tighten that even more, but that’s still safely in the word count ballpark.
Why is all of this important? Because readers get tired if the story doesn’t change up, and making the change-ups (turning points) come closer together as the story progresses means the reader subconsciously feels the pacing pick up. So another thing I have to do in the Paper Edit is
Rewrite Goal: Emphasize those soft turning points, especially Nita’s Things Get Worse in the bar and Nita’s reaction to Nick ad the end of the breakfast scene. . (Her crisis when Nick opens the box and her climax when she stands up and say, “Fine, the supernatural exists and I’m going to kick its ass” already work I think, at least for this part in the drafting process.)
And then there’s escalation . . . stay tuned.