Saturday, March 31, 2012

Forget the bloody page count!

   I finished it, and of course I had to have someone read it, and who better than those close to me; my father, whose face seemed to always be covered by a book as I grew up, and my wife, my most honest and harshest critic.
   I knew I had a few things that were done so well, I was actually willing to live with them.  I dared think I nailed it on the first try, forgetting one of the most important lessons in writing:
   "There's no such thing as good writing, there's only good rewriting."
   Okay, no problem, I'm sure I'd be tweaking and polishing the novel to its best luster.  After all, I just nailed an almost 500 page novel that some of my readers claimed were unable to put down, and read the entire thing in less than two days!  Those of you who did that, and you know who you are, I'm still stunned.  Even a bit crestfallen as it took me almost a year to write it.  Ha! The nerve!
    I handed my book THE GAZE to some of my readers and the look on their face upon seeing the thick volume was priceless.  It also made me think that the next novel ought to be a little friendlier, and I set a goal in mind of staying under 400 pages.
    After all, I'd just read John W. Huffman's "A Wayward Wind" and this wonderful story doesn't even break 350 pages.  It was possible then, or so I thought.
    As my page count reached 340, I realized I was only halfway done and like a complete (your own expletive here), I crammed each page from that point on.  Still, I felt I pulled it off.
    No, I didn't.
    My father wasted no time in showing me the error of my ways.  In a tough, yet gentle way I'm very familiar with, he made some not so flattering comparisons of my new manuscript to certain other, um... shows out there that tore me up inside, though I forced myself to open my mind and take his words to heart.
    My wife soon followed with her observations now that Dad got the ball rolling.  Soon I felt crushed under the wheels of constructive critique.
    But one thing Dad said, will always be with me, added to the long, long list of advice he's given me throughout my life.  "When a book is good, it doesn't matter how many pages it has, and sometimes it's so good, that readers mourn the turning of each page as they reach the ending." 
   From now on, page count will be the last thing on my mind.
   I thought back on the many times I wished there were another 100 pages in a story, and I never liked that firework style where so much leads to a quick and deciding end, you know, when a book takes 30 chapters to develop and one to conclude, leaving you unfulfilled.
    And so, those of you who have embarked on this amazing journey of writing novels, don't make my mistake.  Tell your story without setting limits, create without bounds, develop your story lines, your characters, situations, and dialogues to your heart's content.  If you are anything like me, and I fervently believe we all share a certain element in our brain, for here we are, writing, you will make certain you leave your pages with your very best, and if your story warrants more than 700 pages, more than 1,000, so what?  I've been there, agonizing over those last 20 pages wishing there was more, unable to stop the inevitable end, just as we are unable to stop the passage of time.
    Best of luck on your stories, my friends.  And now, I've a novel to rewrite.

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