Icarus Down Passes 100,000 Words


Below us, more ornithopters dropped from their gantries and fled away along the chasm. Rachel and I watched them go. People were evacuating. But it wouldn’t be enough. Not given the number of ornithopters we had, and the few people each could take, or how long it would take to get everybody boarded.

We both knew this. It wouldn’t be the smallest piece of enough.

“Simon!” she shouted at me. “Please! It can’t— Not like this!”

There was another whoosh as another angel wing failed. Sunlight was almost to the anchor now.

I looked at Rachel. I raised my hands, palms up. She looked away, shaking her head in disbelief. “We’re going to die,” she whispered. She stared in horror at the last burning angel wing. “We’re going to burn to death!”

Burn to death, I thought. And as I thought this, a new resolve swept through me. I took her hand, and pulled her around to face me. “No, we’re not.” My voice was steely calm. I hardly recognized it. “We’re not going to burn to death. We are going to jump.”

She blinked at me.

“Trust me.” I let out a mirthless laugh. “You really don’t want to burn to death.”

She laughed at that. Then she wiped her eyes and cleared her nose with a sniff.

So, for the past three weeks or so, in addition to my non-fiction commissions, I’ve been busy revising Icarus Down. My agent, Emily Gref (the third Emily in our literary lives; Erin has Emily van Beek, her agent, and Emily, her editor’s editorial assistant — I don’t know how we’re going to keep the narrative line uncluttered), sent me an extensive editorial letter on the first part of the story. This is precisely the reason why I took her on: I knew she had a strong editorial eye and could identify the story’s weak points where I could work to make things stronger. This is how Erin’s Emily worked with Plain Kate, and I have high hopes here.

The focus of her suggestions for part one involve having Simon getting to know more people on Iapyx before the great tragedy that befalls him. That way, when said tragedy does befall him, the reader will have more reason to care. I think this is a good approach. The byproduct of this approach, however, is that the word count for the first part has gone up — so much so that I checked out the total word count on my manuscript yesterday and found that Icarus Down was now 100,029 words long.

I feel that’s a significant milestone that I should celebrate. Writing a story where the word count reaches six figures might seem a rather arbitrary goal, but the longest book I’d published previously was The Young City, that clocked in around 49,000 words. In the fan fiction realm, I used to be quite pleased when my stories topped 25,000 words, though I did reach over 80,000 words with the help of co-author Joseph Keeping when we collaborated to produce a Doctor Who novel entitled In Tua Nua. The Night Girl is my next longest solo work, at 69,000 words (The Dream King’s Daughter is 57,000 words long). In terms of other authors’ works, Twilight clocks in at 115,000 words. The first Harry Potter novel had 79,000. Of course, I’m blown away by the latest novels of both Rowling, Meyer and Stephen King, once they became too famous to edit, but I still feel like I’m in good company.

So, I’m going to throw some confetti. I’m going to cheer a little. And then, with Emily’s help (so she’s told me), I’m going to get to work getting Icarus Down back across the 100,000 word barrier, to a final word count somewhat closer to 90,000.

I think it’s an important thing to do. While WritingWorld.com says that a novel can comfortably run in the 50,000-110,000 word range, 100,000 words is still pushing it for what would essentially be a debut. The truth is, a story should be as long as it needs to be in order to tell the story, but if you can deliver the same emotional impact at 90,000 words as you delivered at 100,000 words, you’ve delivered 10% more emotional impact per word.

Maybe. I’m kind of thumbnailing the math.

More news as things develop…

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