As I wrote a novel with a corporate setting, florid language became dead weight. I needed to make a corporate motif, a slickness half jet-age half cyberpunk.
It took many drafts to make that happen since it was a big story. I resolved not to write like film or for film, but to edit my work into efficiency. Like compression in computing, to convey the richest illusion in the least time without being too lossy.
In the last two years I have taken almost 40% off the first draft manuscript. I may not be good but I am trying hard. One day I will learn to say less from the start.
I am starting to feel done with the manuscript. There will be fixes in its future — heck, there was a fix today — but it’s no longer a work in imaginative gestation. It’s finally emerged from my head.
This last edit was in large part a streamlining. Some jokey scenes that needed toning down or tightening, one clause where there were two. On rereading the current draft I feel I cut too deep in some places, but unlike wood one can spot restore words. I have the current draft up in the sample pages. Many fewer sample pages. TL;DR. If people want more they will ask.
I am now at 138,000, the length of Snow Falling on Cedars or A Tale of Two Cities — longer than Prisoner of Azkaban, shorter than Goblet of Fire. I have copies of the manuscript out to volunteer readers, and while I await their comments I am researching agents to query.
I now feel I can write new things. I’m very nervous, in a good way. I am learning about commercial markets, which is very exciting.
As for this last streamlining, much of what remains is sensory. Recently my wife said, “Your novel would be a great TV show.” I valued the praise highly. To me it meant I had made a lot go on in little space. I hope that I cover more of the senses than the visual, what Gabriel smells or Zarabeth feels. I want this to be an inviting experience.
Film itself had to evolve. In college I saw a 1930s film version of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. When changing scenes even between two very different scenes — a jury trial in a packed courtroom, and a couple on a rowboat on a lake — the voice-over narration always explained the change and set the scene. We are no longer thrown by this transition. Different background? Elsewhere. Got it. When did we learn it? How did my son learn it?
I hope I have struck a good balance between quickness of delivery and richness of story. With my writing group (I have one now, it’s very cool ) I recently tried out a novel chapter that I had adapted into a story. Colossal failure; no one had any context. Which is perhaps good news, as it means this brick only makes sense in the wall. Hemingway says “Kill your darlings” but I think this needs subtlety — not to throw out good lines in the name of equality, but to raise the total brightness of the work instead of depending on flashes.