For those following the saga of the Ogallala rewrite — which means anyone reading this blog, as 50% of my recent posts are on the subject (here’s the most recent one) — I’ve just hit 6479 words, which, when we count editing for wordiness may be more like 6300 words. That leaves me with anywhere between 700-1200 words to wrap things up, which is encouraging. I’ve rather radically transformed the family drama part of the story, though in a way that makes it more conventional, more related to the world the characters are living in, more poignant and more frustrating at the same time. I’m basically finding myself sympathizing with everyone, and also being critical of everyone, and while the characters aren’t really supposed to be, in any simple or straightforward way, emblematic of this or that nation, they do kind of represent power structures and attitudes of different blocs in the world. But I’m even more critical of, and sympathetic toward, all of them than I was in the original draft.
The one troubling thing is that even with my shifted focus, I still need to add one more scene, which will probably shape up to be longer than the bits I’ve cut so far. What I’m saying is that it may be that this is a 8500 word story, not a 7500 word story. In which case I think it’ll simply be too long for Tesseracts, in which case I may send an odd little story called The Wager. Though I’d like to get some feedback on it, just in case the most experimental aspect isn’t quite working. (It’s in 2nd person, which can spell doom, except I think it plays with the voice in an interesting way… and it’s under 5500 words.)
UPDATE (15 Dec. 2006): Well, now I think the science and the characters are all working harder–mostly–but the draft ended up being a substantial cut-and-expand. I cut the bits that weren’t letting me focus on the central characters, thickened the worldbuilding, changed and deepened the central characters’ backgrounds, and all that… and now I’m at approximately 9200 words. And here I was hoping it might end up being 5000 words. Ah well… this story might have to go somewhere else after all, though I plan to spend some time on it this weekend so that, regardless, it’ll be going somewhere next week. Meanwhile, I’m eyeing two other stories — “The Wager” and “Realer” — for some hardcore revising next, since they look like possible candidates for Tesseracts. Each story has its own problems. With “Realer”, it’s more about immersive detail, character depth, and focus, as one encouraging but astute offlist criticism has pointed out to me. (This seems to be a recurring issue with me, so I think I’m going to start doing character sketch exercises, the way I used to do formal counterpoint exercises, to see if I can get a handle on it.) With “The Wager” I think the story is largely okay, but there’s something deeper missing — something like a unifying point, a reason that the narrator is telling it… the “why” of the story, the answer to the “so what” of it, maybe.
However, I think Realer might have a better chance of being ready in time, since I am finding that what deepens my stories in that latter way is, in fact, repeated revisions. So I’m thinking the Wager might just go through a few drafts first before I even show it to my crit group, let alone send it out for publication.