The saying is, a good novel has about 300 pages with a total of about 60,000 words. Getting the 300 pages is not difficult. You use a large font, double-line spacing, and a small paperback size. I have seen some good examples, and it always boggles the mind.
Getting the 60,000 words together is a much more formidable challenge, at least for yours truly. Yes, it is a personal problem, because I am not a friend of writing useless fillers for the sole purpose of reaching a proper word count.
I remember, for instance, my clumsy attempt to read Bonfire of the Vanities where the first twenty pages or so describe the very same event, a crowd of people, in excruciating detail, and I, fairly disgusted, gave up reading the book. I am a firm believer that a book should tickle your curiosity and your fantasy. The curiosity is being killed by boredom, and the fantasy has no chance to develop because the author dictates every single detail for you.
Another master of blowing up the word count is David Baldacci. Don't get me wrong, I used to love his books, but after a while he became boring, too. I guess, when you write too many books of the same genre in too short of a time period, you lose steam. Nevertheless, to his credit, David Baldacci has sold many millions of books all over the world. Still, the last books I read could have been easily cut into half without losing their essence. There were large portions of totally useless blabbering (= fillers), and I used to page through them without reading and without losing any important details. However, the name David Baldacci makes it a bestseller. Had he tried to submit his latest novels under a pseudonym, he would have been rejected by his publisher.
I, on the other hand, have the reversed problem. First, I don't sell millions of copies per novel, and, honestly, I can live very well with the fact. I write, because I love writing. I never expected success in David Baldacci's dimensions. Secondly, whenever I finish the first draft of a novel, I am about 20,000 words short.
For example, as of today I have officially finished the first draft of my newest novel Painted Wings and Giants' Rings. The word count is exactly 42,154. As a result, I will spend the next few weeks with adding fillers that make sense.
Let me explain the process using the example of my favorite short story "The Duel":
First, we start with the German version, short, precise and to the point:
He saw him.
He shot him.
Not very satisfying, is it? It is very apparent that the story line needs more substance.
In the following we take the same story line and flesh it out in form of English journalism:
It has been stipulated, the person, we will refer to as "A", besides his detestable reflection, had demonstrated some abominable behavioral patterns prior to the confrontation with the subject we will refer to as "B". One is reminded of the MKRF report - the findings of that report have also been adopted by the RTAK, an organization whose services have on occasion exploited by the British Defense Ministry, in 1999 - recognising spectacular similarities to the event in question. While bloodshed was not a preferred choice of reconciliation, it was nevertheless the most effective - as was substantiated by research activities at the UKIMA, the United Kingdom Institute for Military Absurdity in 2002. The elimination of "B" is widely considered a logical consequence of the conflict and it was accomplished in full accordance to the 1875 Treaty of Thurtherthon, Wales, which specifically outlaws coercive exercise during tea time.
Well, since the intention is to write a novel, let's take the same example (the German version) and convert it into American "Crime Noir":
Giordano Mozzarella took shelter from the falling rain at the corner of 5th and 6th Street. Once protected, he watched the New York rush hour traffic crawling by, waiting for his target to arrive. Mozzarella was not a handsome man. In fact, he had a face that only a mother could love. Unfortunate for Mozzarella, his mother didn't love him. In an erratic decision earlier in her life she had refused to have more children who might turn out like him. He had tried hard to please her, but she still couldn't find it in her heart to love him and he wondered why. Suddenly he recognized the man in a long trench coat walking toward his position next to "Yakov's Butchery." Mozzarella quickly took care of his running nose by pressing a finger on his left nostril, and forcefully pushing the gunk through the other into the falling rain. He checked his wrist watch, assuring it was past tea time. The Brits would have no reason to complain about his timing. Mozzarella was not a man of many words, maybe because he was mute, and when the man in the trench coat walked by him, he simply raised the 90 mm Glock and pulled the trigger. "Gotcha," he thought. For several minutes he just stood there, watching the man die as a number of pedestrians, unimpressed by the blood stream, walked by. Mozzarella checked his watch again and decided it was time to go home. Maybe this time his mother would be proud of him, now that he had killed the man from the Internal Revenue Service.
Okay, my novel is neither English journalism nor Crime Noir, but fantasy. It will be my first and last attempt at fantasy, because unlike David Baldacci I refuse to dwell in one and only one genre of fiction writing. In the meantime, David will rake in more millions, while I will enjoy my life as a starving writer.
About Painted Wings and Giants' Rings
Roger Wilkinson is in a coma after a car accident on the Massachusetts Turnpike. The doctor describes his condition as being in a dark place. Roger's children, Patrick and Siobhan, decide to rescue their father from the dark place and bring him to Never-Neverland, because, in their view, nobody dies in Never-Neverland. They try to find their father through their dreams, and in these dreams they travel to the island of Sodor and the land of Honalee, but without success. Soon, they realize their father can't be in a children's place, and they need to enter dark, adult places like the Island of Shalott and the Isle of Frozen Souls. They meet the Lady of Shalott, who ultimately dies after seeing Sir Lancelot, and Annachie Gordon, whose heart turned to stone after learning that his love, Jeannie, had died. Patrick and Siobhan survive these dark places by remaining what they are: Children. When they ultimately find their father, they must apply the full power of childhood against the dark forces of adulthood.
Painted wings, childhood’s great defender,
And giants’ rings are such great splendor.
Keep these treasures, don’t grow old
In a world of tears and full of cold.
- The Faery’s Silly Song
Painted Wings and Giants' Rings is due for release in November 2012. For more updates see my website or feel free to "like me" through the Facebook icon on top of the website.