The Meddlesome Middle

I added 1,400 words to Shadow of the Black Tower on Sunday, bringing chapter ten to 2,700 and almost reaching 23,000 for the whole manuscript thus far. No, I haven’t gotten to the monster fight yet. ;-) I’ve had fun setting up a few things first that will play out during and enhance the encounter, but I probably stopped a few pages short of starting the action after a long writing day.

At this point, it’s likely I’ll end chapter ten on a cliffhanger note when I introduce the deadly danger. My chapters in Shadow have been averaging about 3,000 words, and the events of the monster fight could easily make ten double that. So I think breaking things up is the better pacing choice.

I’ve become uncertain of how many more words the manuscript needs to go until it’s finished. I was pretty sure that it was going to be a novelette or novella at the onset, but now that I’ve hit the 23,000 word mark and it feels like I’m in the “meddlesome middle” of a novel — a feeling I’m familiar with from writing my first one — I don’t know anymore.

I do know the key scenes I want to include from where I am currently to get to the end… but can I estimate a word count based off of that? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Still, I’m doubtful the story could reach the vaunted 50,000 word minimum that typically defines a work as a novel. Yet, somewhere between forty and fifty thousand words wouldn’t surprise me. At least then I could technically call it a novel, albeit a short one… not that it really matters.

I love the style of a good novelette or novella, and have written more than a few. Traditionally, they were difficult to publish because the minimum cost of printing a book made works under a certain page count less profitable, and novella’s were found largely in collections and serialized in magazines as a result.

As I’m an indie writer working in an electronic publishing environment, that’s not an issue for me. I do believe that novels are easier to market, though. Having started Shadow assuming it would end up a novelette or novella early on, the biggest issue I have with it growing out of its planned size is how that has torpedoed my estimate on how much time it would take me to complete.

I had no intention of Shadow taking this long. I really want to get back to editing my first novel, Vivian’s Last Cigarette, but I’m sick of abandoning projects before completion, and I really think Shadow of the Black Tower is going to be a great story when it’s done, whatever its final length is. Therefore, I’m determined to finish my first draft of Shadow before returning to Viv’s.

My struggle with Shadow taking so much time has had a lot more to do with an extended chain of exterior life stuff — including some achievements that are very positive progress towards my author goals — and my personal growth, than with an ongoing struggle with the manuscript itself. Mostly, my situation has been one of simply not having enough time to write on it as much on it as I’d like to get it done quicker.

This week has been a typical of that, as my day job has been particularly tiring from a doubled workload while a coworker is on vacation. Add to that the reality of the upcoming weekend being my monthly social media setup, and normally I wouldn’t have any time to work on long fiction.

However, I’m taking a few vacation days and adding them to my Labor Day holiday weekend to get five days off next week… and over three of those I’ll be working on Shadow with a goal of adding four to five thousand words to it. :-)

Have a great week everyone, and keep writing!

~Jason H. Abbott.

13 thoughts on “The Meddlesome Middle

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  1. Stories have ways of making us do what they want. Blowing away estimated work counts is one I’m sure most authors have dealt with. My last novella did that, and the one I’m working on now is doing the same thing.
    You’ve got the right idea, though. The story will tell you how long it should be!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. In that sense, I think the story begins to write itself from a point onward, and it’s close to impossible to determine what length it should be. It seemed to me at least that I get sidetracked from exploring my own worlds and forget completely about how long I’ve been wandering around them. I suppose the same applies in this case, and I don’t see it to be much of a problem actually ☺

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s only a “problem” insofar as it’s taking more time than I’d planned, but as I’m not facing a deadline it’s fine. I’m also not a plotter and outliner, so that pantser flexibility makes uncertainty not a big deal. If I was a plotter, however… it would probably drive me nuts. ;-)

        Liked by 2 people

      2. So you’re a discovery writer like me :D I used to feel like it wasn’t the right way to write at some point, but recently got used to it and I actually embrace it now. And I agree, plotting too much drives me nuts too xD

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Writing is an art, and as such there’s no right or wrong way to do it… just the way that works for you. :-) In my case, I plot a little on paper (a few pages of notes, usually) but mostly think a lot about what I’m going to write in a conceptual stage before I start a project. But in the process of writing, I’m following broad ideas and patterns, not by any means a rigid path. I let the story go where I feel it needs to and would make the best tale.

        That method certainly wouldn’t work for everyone, and that’s fine. :-) Like I said, you have to find what works for you. There is no one way to do anything… and be wary of those that say otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Keep at it! I for one would love to see something that breaks convention with length. I’m tired of hearing that genre A needs to be XX words and genre B absolutely needs to be XX words. Let the story be what it wants to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Indeed, the “minimum” word counts by genre is an odd thing. On one level, I understand that genres like science fiction and fantasy generally trend to higher word count because of the necessity in them to allot more to description because they are describing things out of the ordinary… and over the course of a book that pads it up. One thing I like about urban fantasy or sci-fi or horror in a modern is that I can avoid and cut back on that a bit.

      But most of the “minimum” word counts are old standards from they days when hard-copy was the only publishing choice, and from publishes not wanting to deviate from the formulas of profitable books. That age has passed, they just don’t know it or don’t want to admit it.


  3. My hand is up. I’m a discovery writer too. I didn’t have a great day today; not sure why my characters were so uncooperative, but I figure since it’s the first draft, words on the page are important. It’ll be spiced up next time around.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The most important thing is to write. You can fix most anything in edits… except for a blank page. ;-) Good days or bad, if you’ve gotten words down, you’re winning.

      Plotter or pantser, what we’re doing is mostly an art so there’s no right or wrong way individually so long as it’s the best way for you to get the words down and get to the editing thereafter. :-)

      Did you finally get your characters to behave? Or did they come up with a better idea than what you originally had going?


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