Hooray, hooray, it's a wonderful day for I have finished Draft 2! Last night about 7:45 pm, my overworked keyboard stilled and I flipped over the last sheet of the printed draft into the inbox, signaling the completion of Draft 2. In excitement, I ran a word count, eager to know how much I had hacked away during the intense pruning that happened between Draft 1 and 2.
To my surprise, Draft 2 clocks in at 186,432 words, a whopping 14,713 more words than Draft 1 contained. Confounded, I ran the numbers again and did the math, and my original assessment was correct; despite the sections ruthlessly eradicated from Draft 1, I still managed to pack in almost 15,000 words to a draft that was quite lengthy to begin with.
Writer friends of mine have informed me that a typical book usually runs about 100,000 or less and publishers start squawking when the count hits 120,000. To give a rough idea of how that translates into pages, common wisdom states that a page of published book generally contains about 250 words. Which means I currently have a 700+ page draft on my hands.
To give you a better visual picture, below are two books: Cheri Priest's Boneshaker which is 414 pages and James Clavell's Shogun which is 1152 pages.
At this point, Steam on the Horizon would be about in the middle between these two books as far as length.
To the eye and hand, Shogun is chunky and awkward: it is obvious in a glance that the book will be a challenge to read. Boneshaker is slimmer and less intimidating, and to the eye it doesn't seem particularly long. Obviously Shogun has smaller dimensions than Boneshaker and that affects the overall presentation. Standard manuscript format and printing dimensions vary quite widely, and on Amazon's Createspace, self-published authors have a variety of printing choices and manuscript dimensions to choose. Yet, despite whatever size a printed copy of Steam on the Horizon ends up being, the very real questions I am currently asking myself are:
1) Is this too damned long?
2) Do I have superfluous stuff to cut?
3) Would the story suffer if I cut out a lot?
4) Would anyone read it if I didn't do significant whittling down?
5) Should this planned trilogy involve more than three books?
Right now, I have no answers to these questions. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to meet the dynamic steampunk writing duo Tee Morris and Philippa Balentine at the 2012 Emerald City Steampunk Expo, and they were kind enough to enthusiastically share ideas with me for several hours. Last night in a befuddled panic about how the heck I was going to tame this wild madness of a draft, I dashed off a message to them asking for their advice and I am eager to see what they have to say.
One thing I am pondering is breaking down Steam on the Horizon into three parts just for e-book form. For printing, I still want to offer just three books for this trilogy I have planned. But it may make more sense to have a Part 1, 2, and 3 for Steam on the Horizon in e-book form. What I could also do is offer Part 1 for free as a way of hooking readers on the trilogy. I was already planning on offering the e-book for just a few dollars, and giving away part of it could possibly be a strategic marketing campaign.
However, this may simply be a case of a wiser, more objective head looking over my draft and identifying about 40,000 words or so that need eradicating or could simply be removed without causing damage to the overall story line. I have a small cohort of beta readers ready with their red pens sharpened, and I will be getting them Draft 2 soon. It will be interesting receiving their feedback. I can envision a scene where kind, well-intended friends are gently prying a chapter from my white knuckles as I moan, "No!!!! Don't take that from me!!!! Pleeeeeassssee, can I keep it????"
On another note, I have started my new job as a coordinator for a medical helicopter company and am excited about learning more about latitude, weather conditions and how they affect flying, helicopter anatomy, and a vast assortment of topics that hopefully will transition somewhat into steampunk. Also included in the training process is a chance to ride along on a helicopter transport, a prospect I am looking forward to with boundless enthusiasm. I only hope pictures will be permitted so I can document the exciting adventure!
Next up, finish costume for the steampunk Valentine's Day event. I have a skirt to bustle and some accessories to make!