[First, a little housekeeping. Kat and I have switched days, so starting today, I’ll be posting on Tuesdays and she’ll be posting on Fridays. My apologies if you were looking forward to her post today…you can catch her this Friday! And now…onto my post…]
I’ve been working with the same beginning for awhile now:
- Scene 1: Susannah and her uncle face off; he tells her she’s marrying his friend, she says no.
- Scene 2: We meet Nate, learn he’s out for revenge with Susannah’s uncle as the presumed traitor and target, and must court Susannah (whom he’s never met) so he can get inside the uncle’s house to find damning evidence that’s been eluding him for years.
- Scene 3: Susannah and Nate meet on the street (but do not reveal themselves to each other), then Susannah shops for a dress (necessary) and brainstorms with her seamstress friend an alternative to marrying her unwanted intended.
- Scene 4: Susannah meets the marquess (the unwanted intended) and his mother at a dinner hosted by her uncle. Sparks fly.
The sum total of these four scenes is about 10,000 words…and Susannah and Nate don’t even know who each other are yet!
Enter a literary contest…The Royal Ascot. It’s focused specifically on the Regency, the due date is April 1st, and—this is the best part—you’re limited to the first 7,000 words.
Well, nothing like a word limit to whip your MS into shape! I realized quickly that I need to do a lot of paring down and consolidating. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I had been thinking for awhile that my first few scenes needed to change, but like an ostrich, I stuck my head into the sand to block out that reality.) Scenes that I’ve had since the very beginning (aka “my darlings”) would have to be stripped down or even cut entirely (*weep*). I had to fast-forward to key scenes and combine a few so that I could establish the basis of the book in 7,000 words or less, which should include (at a minimum):
- Each of the four main character’s goal, motivation, and conflict
- The love interests and their physical reactions to each other, as well as their impediment(s) to being together
- Some of the minor players who will affect the story’s outcome and their respective GMCs
- Setting/time period/pertinent world events
So here’s what I have planned:
- Scene 1: Remains relatively unchanged. I like this beginning, it sets the tone, time in history, we learn who the uncle is, and his goal, as well as Susannah’s.
- Scene 2: Again, remains relatively unchanged. It’s a good set-up for Nate’s GMC, and gives some pertinent (but brief!) back story regarding Susannah’s relationship with her uncle.
- Scene 3: BRAND NEW/BORROWING. Before, I had Susannah shopping for a dress (necessary), but with her maid. Now she’s shopping with her intended’s mother, the dowager marchioness (aka “the Hag”), which not only gets Susannah what she needs (a dress), but also sets up the Hag’s GMC.
- Scene 4: BRAND NEW/COMBO. No more dinner. Now, they’re at a ball (I know, another ball, but where else can a bunch of people be thrown together? Maybe I’ll make it a musicale). Susannah finds her friend Maggie and the two of them brainstorm an alternative to marrying the marquess, AND Susannah meets Nate…not only the first meet (where they don’t reveal names…if I can get it to work), but also the mortifying, “Oh my gosh, that’s who you are?” This scene will be a long one (it may actually end up being split into a few), but all of the events I had happening at different days, times, etc. throughout the first ¼ of the book are now being thrown together in one night’s event.
The challenge, of course, is going to be pulling this off. I have a lot of information to reveal in a short period of time, but the flip side is I have to make sure the characters, setting, GMCs, and such are well-established. I can’t just fly through everything to make sure it’s included, because it will be at the expense of character development and story realism.
The other problem that comes with this consolidation is it decreases my already-low word count. However, I can’t worry about that right now. If I can’t hook a reader, then what difference does it make what my word count is? They’ll have already thrown the book against the wall!
So, my fingers are poised above my keyboard, I have a goal (get it done quickly so some of the other Ladies can give me timely feedback), and I have a plan.
Ready, set, write!!