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.