The Rome goes ever on and on…

23 Oct

Last night, my wife asked me, “How much do you have left on your Rome novel?”

The point of the question is that she, a very smart and helpful person, occasionally figures out how many words a day I need to write to hit whatever goal I have, in whatever deadline I have.

I hesitated and then said, “I THINK around twenty-five thousand words left.”

And we talked using that as a guideline, and then we lay quiet (it was just before bed). And as I’m lying there, the Rome novel fills up my head and I start fleshing it out a little further. Not figuring out what happens. I know what happens, from where I am all the way to the last line. It all works, it fits together, I know how the scenes go, there’s nothing to do but dash till the end.

What happened was, as I started thinking more and more about it, I could just see the novel stretching out and away from me, growing longer and longer. Like in the cartoons when you see an oasis across a trackless desert, and then the camera shows it getting further and further away. Just like that.

There’ s a lot of story left to tell. I’m into the climax down, I’m out of the “Middle” and into the “End” of the book, and there’s still so much to tell. So many plots and characters and the entire solution to the problem, the aftermath, and so on, and we haven’t even gotten back to Rome yet, never mind when he actually returns.

“So how much longer do you think it’ll be?” My wife asks as I hesitantly explain this to her.

“I don’t know,” I say, “The first number that comes to mind is fifty thousand more words. I don’t know if that’s right.”

And I don’t. I can see the shapes of scenes which I had figured out and then left alone (because I’m busy in the scene I’m on, thanks) and I realize that there’s a lot left. There’s quiet character moments and battles and trips in boats and people die and farming (yes: farming) and all sorts of stuff. Just sitting here typing this, I thought about a scene that the book needs, but that I hadn’t considered. I don’t know how long that one will be, but it’s another piece.

I could do twenty-five thousand words between now and the end of October. Fifty thousand? Maybe, but I won’t. I’ve already decided that, since The Tea Debacle (which pervades all my posts, these days) is a novel competition — meaning if you finish a Work in Progress and want to keep going, you start your next novel-length project, rather than getting to write short stories and articles. (If we allowed short stories, I would eat everyone alive). — I’m going to use the end of the Rome novel and then start the beginning of my next novel, the Nondescript. The only other option is to let Rome hang until December, which I have no intention of doing.

So. There we go.


Posted by on October 23, 2007 in Uncategorized


13 responses to “The Rome goes ever on and on…

  1. tjwriter

    October 23, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Now yo have a plan.

    I found some old notes from where I’d just started QoL. I’d veered very far from that original plan, but looking at I thought it still looked promising.

    Makes me ponder.

  2. Pete Tzinski

    October 23, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Old notes are the devil for that. I dug up the first sixty pages of a sci-fi novel I tried and failed to write a half dozen times, a few years ago. I read them over and thought “Oh. No wonder it didn’t work.” And stapled a page of notes to the manuscript, explaining what was wrong and how to make it work.

    Pondering is what old notes are for. 🙂

  3. MidnightMuse

    October 23, 2007 at 9:26 am

    Capital idea – you don’t want to short change Rome just for the sake of Tea, but finishing it the way it wants to be finished, then starting the next one, sounds like a really good solution. The way you talk about Rome it’s clear this novel deserves every sentence it wants to have.

    And I’m not just saying that so you’ll reach the End around November 17th, then sit back, basking in the glow of success and the respite of a job well done, and forget to start up again 😀

    Tea, anyone? I have the pot boiling. . .

  4. Pete Tzinski

    October 23, 2007 at 9:28 am

    I’d like some tea.

    What? This? Oh. It’s a cup of Earl Grey. Quite good, thanks.

    I meant I’d like some MORE TEA, RIGHT NOW DAMN IT.


    Rome is the first novel where I’ve gotten stuck in the middle and then kept going and still felt the same excitement and enjoyment for it that I did at the beginning. I’m not a natural novel writer (I am a natural short story writer) so it comes uneasily to me. This time, it comes extremely well. I’m still proud of it (where normally, I’m ashamed and suspecting it’s tripe).

  5. MidnightMuse

    October 23, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Really? I envy short story writers – I’m too longwinded to manage it. A novel can last 3 to 6 months for me, so that up down up down plodding ever forward is what writing is for me. I know it’s a good one when that feeling stays with me not only the duration of the writing, but also through the edits. A glorious feeling, that!

  6. Pete Tzinski

    October 23, 2007 at 9:45 am

    I write short stories naturally. I know how they work, how they should be shaped, what I can do and how far I can stretch before I’m too far. When I was writing my Robot serial, I knew exactly how good the episodes were up ’till the end when I was burned out. I know my tricks and my tools.

    Novels is just such a different world to me. I always say that I should have been a writer back when people like John Campbell were editing the pulp magazines, around World War II. That was my time… 🙂

    (one of these days, I’ll figure out how to structure a novel as a series of short stories, so that it reads seamlessly but I can write it like that. It’ll be done in two weeks.)

    I’m a fast short story writer, too. As Lori can attest, as we were chatting in an IM window and she wandered off to make lunch or something, I started writing a short story in the window and just kept writing, even after she’d come back. An hour later, the whole story was done, all in an IM window.

    I love that.

    (Once, I did the Harlan Ellison trick and wrote a short story on a typewriter, sitting in the window of a local bookshop. I adored that.)

  7. Soccer Mom

    October 23, 2007 at 10:37 am

    I love short stories. Reading them, writing them, filling notebooks with ideas for more of them.

    Yes, I’m in the boat of finishing a WIP too. Not the one I was working on in September, but one I started last NaNo and abandoned. I was tickled when I picked it up and read it.

    It was fun to write and –shockingly– fun to read as well.

    My outline is just over 50 pages. Yes, that’s the outline to complete the novel that already has 62K. I’ve never done this exhaustive of an outline before and this will either work beautifully or end in tragedy and disaster. I’m experimenting and only time will reveal whether my future includes a great cup of tea.

  8. Pete Tzinski

    October 23, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Every time you mention your outline, I’m more and more fascinated by it. I don’t really outline outside my head but I love trying new things, when it comes to my writing. I’ve always wanted to properly outline like that.

  9. MidnightMuse

    October 23, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Me too, I’m intriqued by people who can outline like that. I try sometimes, but never manage it. First I try too hard to make my notes perfect, then I can’t decide how detailed to get, then I change directions, then I scream into my pillow and just start writing.

  10. tjwriter

    October 23, 2007 at 11:34 am

    While you mortals are chatting about these things, I’m off working through Holly Lisle’s Character Clinic for my Nano character. Then I’m gonna buy Plot Clinic and work through that too. All before Nano begins. Somehow.

    I have a list of plot points. It’s one page right now. But I’d also love to be able to sit down with a GIANT outline and write my story. I’ve just never been able to think that far ahead. I get a general idea and then a few scenes at a time and that’s it.

  11. MidnightMuse

    October 23, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Good lord, woman! You can WRITE while you’re hammered? I can’t even – – oh, PLOT Clinic.


  12. tjwriter

    October 23, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    I’m not hammered, I’m at work. But if I was only slightly hammered around the edges, I could still write. Just not if you hammer me from the center out.

  13. Pete Tzinski

    October 23, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    I think you’re all hammered.


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