Monday, April 25, 2011

Too Much Plot

My current WIP has a May 1st deadline and a 20,000 word limit. I'm up to 16,000 words at this point, but I having a problem, one I really haven't experienced before. Too much plot.

I don't normally do a complete outline for a book of this length, but I will create a set of notes, including a scene list. In the case of "Wild About That Thing", I've got way too many ideas! Already I've scotched three or four of my projected scenes, but I NEED the remaining ones in order to bring the story to an appropriate resolution. I'm really worried, though, that I don't have the word count to complete the tale.

Now probably any authors who are reading this are thinking, "Heck, just cut something earlier in the story." That's easy to say, and I'm sure the story includes some fat that could be excised, but not whole scenes - at least, I don't think so. As it is, I'm concerned that I haven't taken enough time to develop the relationship between the heroine and her two lovers (this is a ménage). I don't want to make the story even less plausible. It's hard enough to believe that my heroine falls so quickly for a man she's just met. If I shorten their joint scenes, that will just make things worse. At the same time the plot requires some of the non-erotic scenes in order to clarify the heroine's situation and her internal conflicts.

I've been writing romance novellas for a couple of years now. This is the first time I've run into this difficulty. Usually I'm very good at estimating how long a story will be based on my initial concepts. I've never yet had to perform surgery on my first draft in order to shorten it to the specified length.

I'm not sure what's going on. I will say that I feel like I know my heroine really well, perhaps more deeply than is usual for one of my novellas. Maybe I'm trying to expose too much of her personality and her history. Or perhaps my premise is just too complex for a work of this length, though it doesn't seem like it should be.

If I had more time, I'd send the work to one of my crit partners for cutting suggestions, but it looks like I may be right up to the wire. (But maybe I can beg someone to give me a really quick turn around...)

Does anyone else suffer from Too Much Plot when you've got an upper limit on length? If so, how do you handle it?


L. K. Below/Lindsay Below said...

I know what you mean, Lisabet. I had that trouble with a recent WIP. What I ended up doing was making the "short" version a lot more different from what I envisioned as the "long" version. Basically, the beginning was the same and the end was the same, but I pared down the middle. I cut out as many subplots as I could and just focused on the main one instead.

When I'm not laboring under set word counts, I just let it be long LOL But that's not really an option here...

Good luck!

Jude Mason said...

Hi Lisabet,

Been there, done it. Two choices, cut and tighten this up to fit the word count. Or, keep this one for later and scramble to write a new one.

Those really are your only choices, so it's up to you.

Yeah, brutal. And it sucks. And why anyone would make you keep to the word count is beyond me too. But, uh, it's the nature of the beast.

Good luck and let us know what happens.


BrennaLyons said...

Let it grow to its full length. There's never only one market for a work. If it's that good, let it spread its wings. Even if it doesn't make it for the current market you'd intended, it will make it somewhere and be all the more powerful BECAUSE you didn't try to curtail it. Works for me, anyway.


Anonymous said...

I would agree with Brenna. Better to do that than end up publishing something that you are not happy with. I would be worried that if you didn't think it would work then the chances are the readers wouldn't either. Sometimes stories just do this kind of thing to you. I write fan-fic (notthing like you are writing tho!) and sometimes I find that upper limits are difficult to deal with! I either can make them or I run over them and then some.

Good luck what ever you decided.


Anonymous said...

sorry that should have read can't make them. See sometimes my fingers can't typer either! LOL :D


Jaime Samms said...

Heh. I'd love to offer advice, Lisabet, by my method has always been to write until the story was over and let the word count dictate itself. Up until recently, that has usually been somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 words. The few times I've tried to write specifically for an antho with a word count limit, I've always gone over. I've given up trying to shoot for a limit and just write the stories, after which, I troll the submission calls to see if it fits anywhere. Sorry I can't be more help, but I've always held that the story will tell itself in the length of time it needs, and trying to dictate just stalls me out and gets me stressed.

PaulMcDermott said...

My two penn'orth is same advice as Brenna.

For me, a vivid dream which lasted perhaps 30 seconds "Real Time" has become a TRILOGY, of which Vols. 1 & 2 are about 80O Words EACH and Vol. 3 (once I get it started!) is not likely to be any shorter ...

20K seems a very arbitrary WordCount. Could you possibly 'sell' the idea of a sequel/follow-up?

PaulMcDermott said...

The above WordCount SHOULD have been 80K++, not 800!

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, all,

Thanks so much for your comments and recommendations. Interesting that almost all of you said the same thing - let it grow. However, that's really not an option. I've already "promised" this to an editor as a submission to an anthology. She gave me an extension on the deadline (because I was going away) in return for my assurance that I'd give her the story as soon as possible after I returned (but not later than the 1st). So I guess I'm just going to have to slice and dice!

Kaz Augustin said...

Hey Lisabet! Everyone else said let it grow, so I won't mention that one. :) My suggestion would be to figure out what each scene is trying to say and then see if you can use one scene to convey the two (or more) objectives. Good luck!

Sylvie said...

I have a similiar problem, let me know how it works out for you and how you handled it?

good luck!!

lynneconnolly said...

Ask yourself a couple of questions and be brutally frank. Would this book be better longer? Would it involve the readers more, or are you being self-indulgent? (I told you, brutal). Or ask your beta reader.
Romance readers are reading for the (you guessed it) romance. Everything else is subservient to that. If it doesn't enhance the romance, deepen characterisation, or the reader's understanding of why this couple (or threesome or whatever) at this time should get together, then it should go.
IMO, of course.

Vijaya Schartz said...

I can relate to your plight, but I could never cut plot from my stories. That's why my books are longer, and why they are published as sci-fi romance, not pure romance. I have as much plot as romance in my books. There are all kinds of readers out there. Not all of them dislike plot. Most of my publishers encourage it.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello again,

Well, I did it. I wrapped the book up with 73 words to spare! I'm hoping that the ending won't seem too rushed. I didn't stint the love scene, at least...

We'll see what my editor thinks!

Thanks to all for your comments.

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