“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single felony.” – Anon.

On November 30, 2010, “Goodbye Grammarian” had 50,022 words. By late 2011, the pencil and paper structural edits were done, and a roadmap for full revisions was laid out. After preliminary editorial backing and filling, it was better (MUCH better). I’d intended to use November 2011 to turn it into a complete novel, but no such luck. On January 8, 2012, it was 65,435 words.

In beginning this year’s Write Anything crusade, I refocused efforts on it and am doing more rewriting, trimming, expanding and generally magic-wand-waving. As of today, it stands at 78,417 words. My goal for this is 90,000. I’m working on chapter 16 (of 20) at the moment. I’m anticipating a longer ending, and there are places in the middle which need a renovation of subplots. Hitting 90,000 isn’t going to be a problem. In fact, I’m now expecting to overshoot it and have to edit back to 90,000.

This is probably not a bad thing.

Dumb subplots are pruned away to make room for better ones. Dull characters (and a couple of good ones) are excised to give the primary characters more to do. Motivations are getting clearer, the stakes are getting higher, the characters getting more compelling. All of this is a good thing.

I’ve got a complicated relationship with this book. In some ways, I feel like my writing isn’t doing justice to the concept. In other ways, I feel like the concept wouldn’t benefit from an indulgence in the kind of lyrical prose I like to wallow in. How in the world did I ever decide to write a superhero book?

“How’s the novel coming along?” It’s a simple question with a long and complicated answer. Suffice to say, it’s coming. Page by page, it’s coming. What’s been a motivator in this is that, every time I talk to someone about “Goodbye Grammarian”, they say how great it sounds and offer to beta read it for me.

Granted, these may be more about me than they are about the book. Maybe I’m just more compelling in person than my prose reads to my jaundiced eye. Maybe I have such an air of sweet, innocent neediness about me in person that these offers are made in the same spirit as one would compliment an ugly child in front of his parents. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

Uncertainty and doubt reigns supreme now as it has always reigned supreme, but the words keep coming, and I keep writing them down.

78,417 words. And counting.


Tony Noland is a writer, blogger and poet in Philadelphia, on the East Coast of the United States. He takes his writing seriously, but has somehow gotten a reputation as a funny guy. His work ranges from literary fiction to science fiction, fantasy and horror. Tony is active on Twitter as @TonyNoland, and you can find his fiction at his writing blog Landless.

12 Responses to “Status”

  1. Sometimes it feels like the only answer to that question is, “not as well as I’d like.” I’m glad yours is going well!


  2. I never think of my novels in terms of words, but I know lots of people who do. Is your novel fully written and you’re editing? Is that how you know how many chapters?

    We all do things so differently, don’t we?

    • Tony Noland says:

      Yes, I’m editing a completed first draft. I use yWriter, which gives me all the stats on chapters, word counts, etc. for each of the autosave versions going back to Day 1.

      I picked 90,000 words because that’s a decent length for this kind of book. Realistically, anywhere between 80K – 100K will be fine. I’ll have a better sense of the final length once it comes back from beta reading.

      I keep an eye on the length because there are some subplots I’m wrestling with, and if I know they’ll take four or five scenes to flesh out, that’s 5K – 8K. It’s good for me to know if I have room for that in the book, if I need to make some cuts to find the room, or if I need to go in a different direction altogether.

  3. Larry Kollar says:

    I don’t try to dictate a word count to my stories — when things are going *really* well, they tell themselves to me and I just transcribe them. Still, I was shocked when White Pickups clocked in at 96,000 words. I’m hoping the editor will find a few things to cut for me. ;-) Still, there are times when a scene just begs for more verbiage.

    @Cecilia, does it *ever* go as well as we’d like? I think that would entail the story writing itself, with no typos or structural problems, and becoming an instant best seller! ;-)

    • Tony Noland says:

      Ah, left to themselves, my stories would run rampant, wriggling in a verdant tidal wave over every square inch of ground. My literary gardens always run wild and lush, overrunning the space allotted to them. What I see as the embodiment of exuberance, though, my readers see as an overgrown, out of control mess.

      I love the sound of my own words. That’s why I’m keeping such a firm hand on the word count here.

  4. Katherine says:

    Word counts . You’re far braver than I. I’m more like Larry — it’s done when it’s done, except I tend to go undercount on the first draft and people tend to tell me that I need to add in *more* scenes to explain bits where I jumped a bit too far for other people to follow. Not that there aren’t other parts that are overwritten.

    • Tony Noland says:

      I always have to add in more to flesh out the bones. I’m now at the point where wordcounts aren’t necessarily the best metric. In a single setting I might add 1000 good words but delete 400 lousy ones.

      Ultimately, this size is dictated by the generally accepted lengths for books of this genre. It’s a general guideline.

  5. Icy Sedgwick says:

    Remember you owe me a beta copy soon…

  6. ganymeder says:

    I offer to beta read, and no it’s not just because you are a compelling person (though you are). I genuinely liked what I’ve read of your grammarian flash, as well as other writings, and I really enjoy your style. I’d love to help out.

    Oddly, my YA Fantasy is also taking me awhile (about 50K Nov 2010, draft 2 now about 65K). I don’t understand how some authors can put them out so quickly! Even one a year seems a big deal, with edits and rewrites, etc. but I respect authors who take their time to make sure they’re putting out something of quality. I really look forward to your book. :)