The Boundary Between the Beginning and the Middle

Natasha comments: "Although I get irritated by the recaps sometimes too, I think the higher word count is perfectly fine... ...writing a book with its screenplay in mind is just so inherently *wrong* that it makes me seethe just thinking about it. Perhaps it's because I have the opposite problems and it's always *more* words I want, but if a story is a long story, then it should be long, and it should challenge the reader.

I did not intend to say that a book should be written with a screenplay in mind. I was making two points: (1) that J.K. Rowling could use more stringent editing on her later works, and (2) her contract stipulation (that subsequent movies include every element featured in those books) was unrealistic. The article quoted concentrates on the latter point, not the former, and I suppose quoting it inadvertantly links the two points together.

I think that The Goblet of Fire is too long and contains too much irrelevant stuff. Even a gentle editorial hand could have brought this book back down to about a hundred pages longer than The Prisoner of Azkaban (to my mind, the best book of the series). The Goblet of Fire was not effectively edited, and with J.K.R's star still rising, what is the hope that The Order of the Phoenix will be any more effectively edited?

In general, if you can tell the same story, convey the same images and the same characters in fewer words, you've told a better story. Word play is an important component of a good novel, either dazzling the reader, or conveying an atmosphere of antiquity, surreality or whathaveyou, but it is not the most vital component, and it only goes so far. Even Stephen King, the father of "King's Bloat" offers up an important rule of thumb: that a second draft should be ten percent shorter than the first. When I write my first draft, the primary struggle is getting my vision onto paper; invariably, I use more words than is needed. Indeed, I often use the same words twice in the same paragraph. I repeat myself. I use the same words twice in the same paragraph. You get the idea.

If a writer discovers on his or her second draft that he has written more than his first, he has not finished putting his vision to paper. Editors, however, never add words to a manuscript. The only exceptions I can think of is when a writer has been asked to submit a short story, and an editor discovers that there's a novel in waiting inside.

With luck, this afternoon will be spent writing. The Young City has built up substantial momentum with my revisions, and I'm starting to develop the narrative in ways I'm happy with. I combined conversations held during Faith and Edmund's dinner and breakfast meals into a single meal, freeing up most of chapter four for... something I haven't decided on yet. Possibly Peter and Rosemary learning their respective jobs. Then, with chapter five, we reintroduce Aldous Magnait into the narrative, and we go from there.

Fathom Five formed in much the same way. The first four chapters were fairly easy to write, but it proved difficult moving away from the set-up to the action in the main part of the book. I realize now that the end of chapter four in both Fathom Five and The Young City represents the end of the beginning of both books (in Rosemary and Time, the end of the beginning occurs at the end of chapter three). There's a greater transition between the beginning and the middle than I'd thought, and crossing this zone can be difficult. Perhaps this is because I can't start a story without knowing unconsciously how a story starts, but I can start a story without knowing where it goes from there. When I've finished starting the story, I'm confronted with the question "and then what?", and I'm forced to stop and think about that.

Fathom Five had to be set aside for a few months so the launching of the middle of the work could be reworked in my mind. The same thing probably happened with the middle of The Young City. It just shows that every story really does have a beginning, a middle and an end. I'm ready to proceed with the middle of The Young City, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story ends.

Anybody have any theories why the transition between the middle and the end flows much more naturally than the transition between the beginning and the middle?

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