I’ve written over a million words in the last few years about stories within this exotic world that I’ve been building. I’ve learned about a thousand lessons, many brutal. Some lessons seem impossible to learn, like not leaving words out. So much has been learned that is far more valuable than my seemingly inborn weaknesses and sins of the past, like not learning grammar better in school. Will I ever stop typing “where” when I mean “were”?
Blunt realizations ignite my desire to learn. Pains are felt at that moment but extend through the corrections of an epic saga. In the world of story-telling that pain is agonizing when you realize you have made a huge bungle.
I crossed the finish line of my first epic fantasy Creed of Kings in 2010. As I started my first editing process ever, I was clueless. I had written a wilderness and every insignificant weed was known by a pretty sentence. Despite this, and to my pleasant surprise, some friends enjoyed part one of that epic. But this “finished” thing was huge with parts two and three. I had an epic inner conflict. I felt it was too big and complicated to appeal to the masses from an unknown author. I felt lost and a bit depressed. Then I found Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. It changed everything. He became my wilderness guide, my Gandalf. I dove into his book and fully embraced his approach.
Brooks helped me discover why the portrait I wanted to paint looked more like Jack, of Jack in the Box instead of the Mona Lisa I had imagined. Though this was a brutal realization, I also renewed my confidence. Reading that book helped me grasp the talent I felt I had. It’s like I had a strong but dull blade of steel before Story Engineering helped me put grips and guards in the write place (pun intended) and sharpen the edge of my sword pen. It felt like I had cheat notes. I started afresh on editing the book I had “finished.” Then the next hard lesson came.
I had ignored the impact of Kindle and Nook on the publishing world in those early days of the e-book revolution. After previously swearing to never self-publish, I thought it was vain and egotistical, I decided to give it a second thought. After lots of reading and inner debate, I decided on self-publishing. I swore I would not compromise quality. I would not just fling it up on the wall and see what sticks. Along with that decision a lot of additional concerns surfaced, writer’s platform, hiring an editor, serious website, paying for a pro book cover etc. One virtually becomes the only employee of a mini publishing company. I can’t just fling that up on the wall either.
I restarted with the intent of self-publishing a massive ongoing saga over a period of years. My new goal is to write shorter books. I reexamined the book I had “finished,” Creed of Kings. Opportunities were there for more books. It was 160,000 words. Too big! I swore to write a less complicated better story. With Larry’s book to guide me, renewed confidence and updated knowledge of self-publishing, I outlined Blood & Soul and two other follow-up books that preceded Creed of Kings (I’ve also outlined two books beyond Creed of Kings). In the spring of 2011 I began the initial writings of Blood & Soul and finished the seventh draft on September 15, 2013. It’s 159,493 words long!
I’m agonizing over that word count. I didn’t know it was that long. The average word count on a novel is around 80K to 100K. Fantasy can be 100K to 120k. George R. R. Martin’s book Game of Thrones dwarfs mine. It’s a door stopper at 284K. But on many levels, I ain’t George!
I don’t know what I can cut. I may take another quick read through it and slash and burn sentences in an effort to shorten the book without compromising the story.
In my defense, there are a lot of characters but not near as many as in Martin’s. Mine is an epic quest and return. It is the set-up for an epic saga. I don’t need to slash and burn sentences. I could probably just slice away more fat. Martin’s Game of Thrones on Kindle downloads for $9.99. Blood & Soul will download for $4.99. So, I only need to prove I’m half as good as Martin!
Are you as concerned about word count as I am?