This Book May Be Getting Away From Me

So I did one of the boring things I have to do when I get close to the end of a finished first draft: the outline.   This outline is not one I follow, it’s the one that follows me.  It lists all the scenes I’ve already written so I can see the plot lurches, the subplots I’ve dropped, the characters who have disappeared, the scenes I need to write yet.   It’s the well-let’s-see-what-we’ve-got-here part of the process, done in Word in a table with three columns: Date and Time, Nita’s scenes, Nick’s scenes.  Nick and Nita’s names are done in boldface, and then the characters I need to keep track of (Button, Max, Belia, etc.) are highlighted in different colors.  It’s a nightmare, and it’s boring as all Hell (which is not that boring, I’m hoping), but it does help me see the holes in the book.

This book is the swiss cheese of narrative excessiveness.

I thought it might be when I got to the scene where the Historical Society tries to burn Nita at the stake (really, Jenny? what made you think you could pull that off?), but the table/outline also shows me the big empty spaces where I had intended Nita and Nick to be “doing things” (there’s plenty for them to do) and just gotten distracted by people with flaming torches (both the literal and figurative).  Then there’s Vinnie, whatever happened to Vinnie?  It’s like he stepped on a rake and has been unconscious for four days.  (No, that’s not going to happen.  Probably.  Although it is a solution to “Where’s Vinnie?”)  And how did the Mayor end up in a coma?  (Stepped on a rake?  No, we’ve done that.  Although possibly the Big Bad has a contingent of Evil Rakes . . . no, that’s how we ended up with Nita tied to a stake.  Focus, Jenny.)  Mitzi’s going strong, though, and so is Sandy, so there’s that.

Other good things have come from this left-brain slog: this is definitely a romance.  I know this because all the scenes I’ve been avoiding are the mystery scenes, possibly because at last count there are too damn many mysteries.  Another good thing: the timeline (dual timeline with Earth and Hell, working that out was not a picnic) solved a lot of problems for me.  Belia’s making regular phone-ins now, usually through the fireplace.  I’ve got the breakfasts and lunches wrestled into place.  The grandmas have shown up and appalled everybody.  I’m making progress.  Unfortunately, I have identified several scenes yet to write, and the word count is already at 90,000.  The book is contracted for 100,000, and my editor told me once that I had 10,000 words leeway either way, so it can go up to 110,000.  I think Fast Women was 116,000.  Wonder how SMP is going to feel about 125,000?  Probably not good.

At least that awful sex scene is gone.   Oh, and for those of you who cared, the marriage proposal is back.  I’ll figure out the finances later.  Right now, I have to get that burning-at-the-stake scene out of there, it’s ridiculous.  Also, no rakes.


23 thoughts on “This Book May Be Getting Away From Me

  1. I have faith that the wordcount will be fine. You’ll write the scenes you need to write, and figure out how to reduce the cast and event-list to reasonable sizes, and along the way you’ll cut enough words that the final count will be reasonable also.

    Looking forward to reading it when it’s done.

  2. Or else the Cherries will descend on your publisher en masse and convince them that the higher word count will sell. Always another path to what you want.

    1. Was that the one with Hansel and Gretel? Or at least the two creepy kids who were a monster?
      I’d forgotten about that. I loved the part where Joyce and Willow’s mom made a lunch date as they prepared to burn their daughters alive.

      1. That’s the episode and then the only thing Willow’s mother retains is that Willow is dating a guitarist.

  3. Yeah! I am so happy. Is it too early to be happy?

    Are you sure this isn’t spec fic? I know spec fic is expected to have higher word counts & character lists.

    BTW, St. Martin’s just published a novel about Alva Vanderbilt at 400 pages – they might not be as unhappy as you think.

    But anyway, congrats on the outline.

  4. I think that St. Martin’s will be so happy to have a Jenny Crusie book, they won’t bother to count the words at all. And I say, the more the better.

    YOU GO.

  5. You know, just to keep all of us happy until the novel after THIS one comes out, you could always just select whichever of the cuttable minor characters has an interesting relationship with another of the minor characters, ruthlessly cut them both, and then turn their story into a short Christmas tale to tide us over during the lean periods…

  6. Yes, it sounds like a hell of a lot of work. But what makes me happy is that you like this book and these characters enough to bother. Hopefully, the Girls Upstairs feel the same and will add their efforts to yours.

  7. I was told by a person with authority over this stuff in a different part of Macmillan that Barnes & Noble won’t stock non-bestsellers at more than $25.99 and for reasons of paper economy that means books can’t be more than 180,000 words unless they’re bestsellers. I know nothing, but aren’t you a bestseller anyway? And isn’t 125 less than 180? So I suspect you’re fretting about something you needn’t be fretting about and you have room for your subplots.

    Can’t wait to read it, however long it is.

    1. I think genre has something to do with it. George R.R. Martin can write doorstops, but I need to be lighter on my feet.
      There’s also just the wear and tear on the reader. If the first turning point doesn’t come until 41,000 words (which is where it is now), the reader is going to going to get restless.
      I’ll mess with turning points later. Argh

      Also I was a bestseller ten years ago. I figure I’m pretty much forgotten now (not here, I know, but you all are exceptional).

  8. One difference between you and most authors is that you take risks. Every book goes somewhere else from preceding books. You write about a romance, solely, without a subplot. You write about ghosts. You write about an older woman who matches with a younger man. You write a woman who bashes men over the head with cast iron pans (my family is addicted to cast iron pans).

    In every story you write, a woman is in charge.

    Whatever Nita turns out to be, (and you have a handle on her and her book) she will launch a new direction for Jenny Crusie stories. Outsiders might laud you or criticize you for leaving a “path,” but we who know you will applaud your new direction. (It only took two glasses of wine to write that, but, damn it, I mean it!)

  9. I am amazed at how much you put into a book. And grateful. I recently re-read Maybe This Time for the I-don’t-know-how-many–eth time. I love all of your books.
    I read other writers and I do enjoy them but the AFTERGLOW is not as good as it is from reading your books.
    I know it is tedious doing what you are doing but I am so grateful to you for doing it!

  10. I reread your books so often that I’ve taken to writing the dates inside the front covers. It never ceases to amaze me how your stories can make me laugh time and again. Need a new one soon …. just sayin’.


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