So now it's coming to this: The sixth, and hopefully final, draft of my first novel.
I've had several beta readers give me good feedback, which indicated I needed to include more, after I had taken a lot out. What I needed to include more of was not more characters or plot developments, but more insight into the characters and what makes them tick.
I've learned over the course of these drafts that sometimes you need to remove something from a drat to make the story work better, but the more I've talked to those who have read my fifth draft, the more I realized I needed more depth. In other words, it's the "more" that actually works when crafting a novel.
Along the way, I've paid close attention to books as I've read them, not just enjoying what I'm reading, but paying attention to what's being developed and why it's important.
The latest book I'm reading is Stephen King's The Stand, which may be an extreme example of how you can include a lot in a novel but manage to get away with it. Of course, King had written multiple novels by the time The Stand came along, so he could rely partly on reputation to sell it to publishers. At the same time, he had to fall back on everything he learned as a writer in order to make the story work for readers.
I can tell you that my planned book will not approach the number of pages in The Stand (and no first-time novel writer should attempt that, I believe) but as the fifth draft came in at just a little more than 50,000 words, I have plenty of room to add without making the book get too long. The trick, of course, is to find that happy medium in giving the readers enough so they become more invested in the characters, but not so much that they become bored, overwhelmed or confused.
So I can tell you that I have completed three chapters and the count looks like this:
* Chapter 1: 4,144 words.
* Chapter 2: 2,988 words.
* Chapter 3: 2,849 words.
I am hopeful I can finish the sixth draft in a couple of months, only needing to balance that writing with my work schedule. Some chapters will require rewriting, others just need polishing. From there, I'm hopeful I'll have a draft that's ready for the next step.
In the meantime, I've got writing to review for other people and I am hopeful to get a book review up this weekend.
But, yes, the journey I've started is about to reach the next phase. It's simply a matter of sticking with it until I get there.