It seems the longer I write this novel, the shorter it gets. Not in a literal sense; I’m still adding new words. It’s just that I keep combining chapters. I’m working from a long and detailed outline, and for the first half (or so) of the book, each part of the outline I’d thought would become enough words to be a chapter did, in fact, reach the length I’m targeting per chapter. Then things started getting shorter. I’d read over my outline, my character notes, the prior scene, and start writing … and the scene would go faster/shorter than expected. I’d look at the notes for the next chapter and see that it, too probably wouldn’t be enough – start adding those elements and scenes and conflicts, waiting to see whether the whole thing would fit within the chapter or need to be broken up differently… and so far, three times, I’ve ended up with what my outline thought was two chapters fitting nicely into the length and logical structure of a single chapter.
According to projections based on the original outline, the novel ought to have been at least somewhat over 50k words – I was hoping to come in around 200 pages, just a short book. Some chapters have been longer than others, and that length hadn’t seemed entirely inconceivable, before yesterday (and the third excised chapter, and another which looks even shorter than half a chapter currently under way), but now I’m projecting that it’ll come in under 45k (at most). Which isn’t the end of the world, it’s still about 180 pages and it’s still the story I set out to tell, but it’s a bit frustrating.
Especially during NaNoWriMo. Having started with almost 20k words already written (back in June), if this one reaches its conclusion at around 45k words, I’ll only have written 25k new words in November – half the minimum goal for the month. I’ll have nearly three weeks left in which to make up the difference, but it’s still a bit frustrating to consider the fact that, partially because the longer I write this one the shorter it gets, I may end up completing two novels this month – neither of which is part of either of the big novel-writing projects I’ve been working toward for most of this year! (Alternatively, I may decide to quit writing for the month after the end of this one and go back to researching and preparing for one of those other projects (or begin the editing & other publishing-related work on this one) – it depends on how I feel when I reach the end of this one, in a day or two. In my 11th year doing it, the rules and official “winning” of NaNoWriMo aren’t the most important things to me about the event.)
It’s possible that the work I’ve been doing toward my other projects has been an influence, since I’m aiming for even shorter books (with even smaller scope per book) for both of those projects – around 35k-40k words per title, probably, with 50k as a likely upper limit I’d consider reasonable. I’m aiming for tighter, more succinct works, for middle grade and YA audiences. The book I’m writing now is intended for a general audience (children included, but not the target), and was intended to be a quick, relatively light read, but not so short as all that. Luckily, it seems to be allowing me to compromise, somewhere between my target length for those books and my target for this one. Hopefully a few people will enjoy it when it’s done, regardless of its length.