I ramble a lot in these blog posts, so maybe I’ve mentioned this before, but I think I am in the end game of my work on Finnegans Deciphered. The little revelations about this or that in the plot have more or less ceased popping into my head. I’m not getting the same understandings of how a given development in the plot ripples through the story any longer. (In fact, I’m beginning to have these insights again about Larger than Life, my fits-and-starts work in progress.) I take all of this as a sign that I’ve pretty much told the story I have to tell, and now I need to polish it. Why, I’ve even begun tinkering with a query letter for the manuscript.
I noted in an earlier post that I had no idea how many words the novel came to or whether I’d need to come up with some subplot to beef it up to “novel length.” And I’d avoided doing an actual word count for a long time because I was afraid of what I would find (or not find). But I whipped up the courage over the weekend to do the math — thanks in part to the frisson of good vibrations that a large glass of iced tea often gives me — and to face the result.
And the result is . . . passable. The word count as it stands today is 61,576, which, I think, meets the minimum for calling my novel a novel. I suspect that there is some fat in that number, that I will need to trim my florid prose a bit in my editing, and that may take me below the 60,000 word threshold, but I also suspect that in my continuous read through, I’ll also discover places where I need to supplement my words and even add bits more to the plot to help it make sense (or in some cases, make less sense since it is a mystery novel of a sort).
Part of my process is to begin a story by tumbling all of my thoughts into a Word file just to see what I have and what suggests itself. As I’m writing, I add to this file just so my stray thoughts and surprising revelations and brilliant insights aren’t lost until I can wedge them into the narrative. Plot points, character development, descriptions, reminders. I have a whole page where I have reworked every single character’s name several times. (Curiously, or maybe not, every single character in my completed novel, The Sleep of Reason, was changed from what I had at the start. Also, no news on the progress of that novel finding an agent, though I am hoping now that the holidays are past I can begin shopping it around again with more hope for attention.) The notes file I have for Finnegans Deciphered stands at about 12,000 words. And that’s just notes. I intend to read through it to see what points I may have missed (or dismissed) that might still find their way into the novel.
Another curious thing, though it retrospect it seems perfectly organic, is that my two main characters, Ann and Greg Finnegan, have taken on lives of their own. I envision a series of novels with them — that had been the goal from the start — but I’m seeing things about their character and their history that I can work in to the other novels. I’m even having a good time imagining an “origins” novel about them. Of course, long-time readers of this blog will know that this is actually my fourth Finnegans novel. The first was apprentice work, from which I intend to steal certain things. The second is a good story that needs an overhaul. The third was lost in a hard drive crash (though I think enough of it survived in email attachments to resurrect it). And now I have the fourth nearly finished. So the Finnegans exist in a world; it’s not surprising to see that they have whole lives and backstories.
So here we are at the start of a new year. I feel as though I am in a good place, which is something to be pleased about (though that might be the iced tea talking).