Today I completed the first rough draft of Wrecking Balls, as per that New Year’s vow.
It’s 43,000 words, roughly. My initial fear has come into the world. It’s ‘too short.’ I need another 7k to bring it up to even short-novel territory, if we’re playing by the rule book.
The idea of seven-thousand words of filler is deeply offensive to me. What if I just refused to change or add a damned thing?
I have a fundamental aversion to rules and formulas and being dictated to. Mindless conformity does not jibe with the book itself, nor with the word “novel.” It never did. My book needs to be exactly as long as the book needs to be.
My last novel was 97,000 words. I think the story justifies that length pretty well. There is no plan to milk the world for volume after volume, a practice I find cheap, annoying, greedy, and manipulative. The entire story was contained in that one book. The possibilities are explored and hinted at, so that anyone can imagine other scenarios for themselves, if they like. They don’t need to read a stretched-out series of lesser ideas squirted as if from a word factory.
Wrecking Balls has its own rules and its own story constraints.
Rule 1: It needs to be funny. The material must be believable, relevant, and arc as the characters progress. Since it’s about stand-up comedians these characters use some material that works and some that doesn’t, and there are reasons for this. It actually provides suspense throughout with rising tension built into the plot. It constantly tests the reader as well. What is funny?
Rule 2: It needs to maintain focus on the main character, despite including a number of comedians, their acts, their struggles. These need to remain relevant to the main character storyline at all times. This is easier said than done.
Rule 3: Language is completely uncensored, untempered, and needs to reflect those characters. Fuck censorship in all its myriad forms.
I have no doubt that as I edit the novel again over the next few days that I’ll add description and texture. But the idea that I need to pad it in order to appeal to some hypothetical market constraint nauseates me.
We live in a fast world where no one has time to acknowledge their own children. Do they really want unnecessarily longer books to read?
The comedy arena is one where quick jabs and short punchlines rule, and wordiness dies an ignoble death. That’s what compelled me to take on this story in the first place. It’s a natural fit for my own style, what I want to do, what I feel comfortable writing.
So that’s where I am tonight, January 24 in the year 2016–if you can believe that one. We’re all in the Matrix.