R. Brady Frost, a self portrait

Tossing Words

Today's post is about rewriting and what happens to discarded words.

Every story begins with but a single word. Yet, it's never really that simple, is it? That's certainly the case with Final Hope. It's been a very winding road with false starts and detours aplenty along the way. It may be many things, but simple it is not.

If, when I started the story back in 2008, you gave me a single word to sum up what it was all about, I probably would have chosen love, but I would have insisted you give me two more. Loss and betrayal. I still think that sums up the story well enough, but there are much bigger things to consider when writing a novel vs. a short story.

Unfortunately for me, it took a lot of words to finally figure out what made my novel tick.

Cartoon Brady thinks about the words he's left behind.
Not Just Another Final Hope Update.

In my last few updates about Final Hope (Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, respectively), I've had an opportunity to share with you a glimpse into my more recent rewriting efforts. This has been a period of insane growth for me, and I really think the work I've been doing lately has started to shape me as a longer-form writer.

I haven't published anything new since 2015, but that doesn't mean I haven't been working. I have written and rewritten this story so many times, and now I'm finally confident that I'm on the right track. This post is about how I got here.

The image below shows the Outtakes file in my current Scrivener project for Final Hope. As of last night, I have 107,786 discarded words in my outtakes folder. A good portion of those words were evicted from the manuscript when I decided against including the larger story in the first novel. Some of them will find their way into book 2, Distant Worlds, but probably not in their current form.

Another thing to consider is that I haven't always kept my discarded words. I also edit on the fly, a habit I'm trying to kick, so all those changes aren't tracked. In reality, I would imagine I've discarded or rewritten at least double the amount of words in this folder for this story alone.

Image

On one hand, it's a little depressing, but on the other... it's also pretty amazing. Sure, I don't have a full, publish-ready novel completed yet, despite all those discarded words, but I've certainly put in the work. I've proven that I can stick with a project for the long haul.

The end is in sight and I finally have a clear picture in my mind for how the pieces will come together. More than that, I have a good foundation for the second novel already written. I'll be treating those words as an outline, so the overall process will be a lot faster. If nothing else, I'm certainly learning from the experience.

As it stands right now, Final Hope is looking to clock in at around 50K-60K words when the rewrites are complete. Those numbers are pure story, no chapter headings or author notes, no sneak peek of the next novel - just barebones words.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the biggest limiting factor for this book has been the overall complexity of the story. For those of you who read Chlorophyllium 9, the original short story, you know how complex the plot was. The process of expanding those scenes and capturing the little moments usually glossed over in the short story format has been a real eye opener.

This presents an interesting challenge for book 2. I'll tell you right now, after Final Hope, the rest of the books in this series will follow a less complicated format. Expect to see more linear, less time-bending plots in the books ahead.

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Some of the words I've discarded have opened up that possibility, but the biggest part was the mind shift that had to occur before I was mentally prepared to let them go. This is really where that Outtakes folder was born. It's easier to cut words if you aren't just deleting them. Now I can go back and see things as they were. I can mine those discarded words for ideas and inspiration. I can dissect them to see why they didn't work in the first place.

I can document and learn from my mistakes.

While over 100,000 words have been cut from my novel so far, they haven't been forgotten. Each of those fallen words have helped strengthen the story. They have helped me better understand my characters and what makes them tick. They have exposed the magic of my story and the world I have created.

Without those failures, I would be that much further from success.

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