Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Review: Broken

I've read romance, but hadn't tried a erotica until a friend handed me a copy of Megan Hart's Broken. It's part of Harlequin's new Spice line of erotic novels.

Explicit sex abounds (hello! Erotica, remember?), but the miracle is that it never grows tiresome. And part of that is the hook of the novel. Once a month, married therapist Sadie has lunch with Joe, a man she met quite by accident. And every month, Joe tells her a story about one of his sexual conquests. Sadie imagines herself as the star of each of Joe's stories, but not because she secretly wants Joe.

Sadie's husband Adam is a quadriplegic, the result of a skiing accident four years ago. While half of the book consists of Joe's erotic tales, the other half is a tender, tough, terrible, loving and heartbreaking portrait of a married couple, once wildly in love, now just struggling to survive. They alternately love each other and hate each other. The author does a wonderful job of showing Sadie's internal and external struggles, both with her husband, her job, her family, and ultimately, her lunches with Joe. Is mental infidelity still cheating?

The ending is, in a way, predicatable, but never trite or contrived. It hit me hard, and while the book might not appeal to traditional romance readers, it's a love story worth experiencing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Great Word Chopping Challenge

Boy, what a month it's been. Craziness at work. Nuttiness at home. Ups and downs with the writing. Summer is almost over, which means Christmas is around the corner. And we all know what that means. Christmas Eve dinner with my extended family, wherein I will deflect questions about my lack of love life and my continuing status as an unagented, unpublished writer. But that little drama is still four months away, so no use worrying about it quite yet.

What have I been up to, you ask? And what the hell does my blog post title mean?

Frequently on AbsoluteWrite, a thread will pop up (very often from an overzealous newbie) asking about word counts. The common theme: "I've written a 200,000 word fantasy/thriller/mystery/whatever, but agents say they won't take anything over 120,000. I can't possible cut anything, because my baby is perfect the way she is. Since my book is so awesome, do you think the agent will make an exception?"


Once a month. Seriously.

It got me to thinking about editing and cutting and making a story stronger. I pondered two books that I wrote several years ago. They were originally one long novel, but it kept growing in scope, so I split it into two average length books. Together, their word count was approximately 170,000.

I love those books. I love the characters and the world and their unique powers. It's been part of my life since the year 2000. I had queried the first novel as a standalone, unsuccessfully, for nearly two years before my final rejection arrived this summer. I had planned to simply stick it in a drawer for a while and move onward with other projects. And I did. For about a month.

Then I started thinking about editing and word count trimming. Did it really need to be two books? Were all of those subplots necessary? Could I trim it down to a manageable 120k words without losing the overall story?

No. No. We'll see.

So I opened up Word and pasted both documents into it, and thus began the Great Word Chopping Challenge. I excised an entire subplot that, while fun and research-heavy during the first draft, wasn't absolutely needed for the story to work. I chopped out whole scenes. I cut two beloved flashbacks. I removed extraneous details, excessive dialogue tags, and about a hundred "nods, smiles, and grins." The words melted off, leaving a tighter, leaner story behind. I finished with a word count of 119,890.

Was it painful to cut away favorite scenes/moments? Hell, yes. Was I proud of myself once I hit the delete key? Definitely. Do I think this single novel is an improvement over the duology? Yes. Why? Dunno.

My point is that it can be done. Words can be trimmed. Often, getting rid of that extra fat will make the overall novel healthier and happier. Is this true in all instances? No. Some stories are just long. I'd love to see the original duology in print, but if the combined version is what sells, then I'll be satisfied. It's a story I want to share with others, whether it's the Theatrical Release, or the Extended Director's Cut.

Either way, the challenge was worth it.

Happy Chopping!