Still pounding hard at the editing, trying to get as much done as I can while I can. This morning, after breakfast, I finished the “final” draft of Big Hair Day. It comes in at a little over 62k words.
To refresh, the final draft for me is the read it aloud draft, making sure everything works and I didn’t miss anything. Anywhere the tongue stumbles for reasons other than trying to concentrate too hard is worth a check. Usually for me, this winds up involving a few word choice tweaks and sentence arrangements here and there. Historical tracking tells me that the average story going from third to final draft picks up about 1.7% in overall length. This is about a thousand words on a 60k manuscript. Anything much more usually means that I’ve gone back and expanded or added a scene because something needs more explanation than I feel I’ve given it. Anything much less means that I did a lot more of what I’d consider later draft tweaking during the 2nd draft (fixing problems).
The biggest word gains come in whatever pass I fix all of the dictation issues (if any) because dictating in a car tends to provide a lot of background noise and gets messy, and in the 3rd draft. Add in that my initial draft tends to be a little light on descriptive action and sensory engagement. There’s usually a draft that picks up 8 or 10% in word count in spite of the occasional removed scene that’s just duplicating other effort.
All of this is a long pre-amble to say that Big Hair Day is a bit of an outlier. I didn’t add any scenes during the final draft, but a lot of spots where something didn’t quite work created a bit of a cascade to smooth things out. I’m happy with the final version, but it picked up a little over 1900 words moving to that final version, a 3.2% increase. Usually, almost every scene needs a sentence or two tweaked and we pick up a few words in the smoother version. This time, the tweaks I felt needed picked up a hundred or more words in half a dozen scenes and more than usual in the rest, but only for about the first half of the book, or a little more. The back half seemed much tighter, like I was paying just a little more attention in the third draft, a lot of scenes where I’d snip or add a word or two and that was all. Of the three main exceptions, two of them are what I’d consider the most important scenes in the book.
Whether the first half is a genre issue or just that it’s the first time I’ve worked in historical fiction, which amounts to the same thing, is an interesting, though probably not relevant question. That I got more comfortable with things as the book progressed seems obvious to me.
And yes, I consider a non-speculative story set in the mid-1980s to be historical fiction. The 1980s are recent history, depending on how old you are, but they’re still definitely history.
I’ll very likely have this one in manuscript to translate into an e-book and paperback sooner rather than later. My schedule calls for it to be a March 2021 release for me, but I don’t know that I really wait that long. I’ve got a totally awesome cover image picked out.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.by