The Re-Write of the Novel Is Complete!

Coffee and ipad
Dear readers. I have submitted my novel / creative dissertation to my committee. Whew. My brain is now pudding.

Thanks to everyone who offered encouragement as I wrote the final scene.

It meant a great deal.

Revised, the novel is 477 double-spaced manuscript pages. It’s 137,000 words. This is a lot, obviously. The average literary novel is supposed to be only 80,000 words.

However, many novels are much longer. Franzen’s Freedom is over 200,000 words. And works of historical fiction, and works of fantasy, tend to be long as well (my novel is a mix of literary, historical fiction, and fantasy). Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn novels are around the 200k mark, too, I believe.

The first draft

And, I like to think, the story reads fast.

We will see: I defend the novel to my committee on June 24th.

This has been a wonderful and crazy five months of writing and re-writing…. Since the start of the year, I have been working on this book non-stop.

From Jan 2nd to the end of February, I wrote 40,000 new words to get to the end of the first draft.

In March, I tidied it up, edited it as best I could, and sent it to my dissertation director. At the end of March, he came back with a radical suggestion: cut two of the novel’s most important characters. I decided, after some painful deliberation, that he was correct.

My novel has three sections, three distinct stories, each set ten years apart (so the action extends from 1770 to 1791). In April, I replanned and rewrote the first third of the book, and then re-planned a largely new plot for the book’s second third. In May, I re-planned the third section, and came up with a completely new finale, and then wrote it all out.

In short: over April and May, two months of continuous work, I revised over 130,000 words of fiction.

This was only possible, I’m sure, because I am lucky enough to have excellent PhD funding, which allowed me to focus entirely on the book (I did not teach at all in the spring), and because I have a very supportive and talented wife, who did not mind my obsessive working.

Yesterday, I submitted the novel. I personally think it’s very good. Now, however, I wait for my defence at the end of June. If they like the book, I will have completed my PhD.

I hope, after that, you will be able to read the novel. If you like historical fiction, magic, architecture, unrequited love, mysteries, and Scotland, you might like this story.

14 thoughts on “The Re-Write of the Novel Is Complete!

    • I plan to go the traditional route, and yes, I’m nervous about the book’s word count. But I haven’t shown the manuscript to my agent yet, so I’ll see what he thinks… I can definitely imagine the book getting trimmed down a bit in edits, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Congratulations – I’ve been following your PhD story and I’ve found it inspiring.

    I’m really close to finishing a story – one or two chapters to go. It’s likely to be more than 160,000 words, it’s fanfic, and it’s taken me seven years to reach this point. Putting aside its faults (length, number of characters, any number of things I don’t have the ability to identify) and its dubious origins (if I call it a transformative work does that somehow make it better?) – putting these things aside, nothing can diminish my excitement and happiness at just reaching the end. Just achieving something, really.

    Having to strike out two main characters would have been a scary prospect for me, but I’m intrigued (and impressed) by your advisor’s suggestion. I have slowly learnt a few things about structure, but the ability of editors to understand how to get the best out of a story (even if that means radical changes) is fascinating – and a bit like magic.

    Good luck defending your story (although I’m guessing your success will come down more to hard work 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. That does sound like a huge project. Congratulations on finishing it! It’s a great feeling to complete something that substantial. I’m a believer in Neil Gaiman’s idea that it’s finishing things that really teaches us something.

      I think part of the magic of a good outside adviser is that they have 1. Seen so many manuscripts, and they can spot problems more quickly than others as a result. They see the cracks forming early. And 2. The writer, him or herself, is just blind to so much in their own story. It’s nearly impossible to look at a work in progress with the necessary detachment. It’s like trying to clean a room without being able to distinguish what is order and what is mess. It all seems equally necessary!


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