The one versus two novel dilemma


When you replot your first draft and realise you’ve actually written two novels.

Just getting myself prepped up for NaNoWriMo 2020.

In last year’s NaNoWriMo, I wrote just over 50,000 words of my second novel and went on to finish the first draft early this year. Then, I put it away and busied myself with rewrites on book no 1. I haven’t really looked at that first draft since. Until now.

I’ve spent the last week re-reading and re-tracking that first draft in readiness for this year’s NaNoWriMo, on a spreadsheet and on this little multi-coloured beauty.

I decided to spend the month focusing on book no 2, rather than start a new story afresh. If I have time when that’s finished, I have two other projects in my back pocket ready to crack on with. All good so far.

Except that now I’ve read it all through and done a final word count, I find I’m already at over 100,000 words.

You might ask, how that could have happened. Didn’t I keep an eye on wordcount?

I must confess, I kept a tally of the wordcount in November then just forgot about it and let the story flow. In the early stages, I write each chapter as separate word documents. It helps my focus and is easier to move around if needed but it’s no good as a wordcount tracker. I could have kept a log but I didn’t. So, no. I suppose I didn’t really keep an eye on wordcount.

You might ask, didn’t I plan the novel?

Well, believe it or not. I planned this one to death. Much more, in fact than book 1. I planned it, and still added to the story. What’s more, I tend to underwrite my first drafts and the re-read has shown me there are bits of the story missing. I say story. In actual fact, it’s four connected stories which is probably another reason for the huge wordcount.

So, what to do? I could plough on and try to shave bits off the original story, or stories, while finding ingenious ways to fill in the missing bits without adding too much to the wordcount. That might work but it’s doubtful.

Or, I could do the sensible thing and split the book into two. I’ve checked the wordcount on the obvious chapters that belong in each book and it’s roughly fifty-fifty. The problem is, the chapters that contain bits of the other stories. The ones that thread the stories together. They are going to take some work to unpick, but at least that gives me room to make each of the stories more rounded.   

Maybe that’s the way to go. As long as I track the number of words this time, what can go wrong?

As to planning. I’ve come to realise I work best part planning and part pantsing. Yes, it is a real word that we writerly types use. It means, just letting it flow out or, in other words, flying by the seat of your pants.

Does that make me a planster? Or did I just make that up?  I’m pretty sure I read it somewhere. I’m pretty sure it’s another real word in the alternative universe that is writing circles (as opposed to crop circles). There I go again.

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