The novel-in-progress is the first where I used an actual plotting technique to plan the novel, as opposed to letting it unfold as the characters naturally reacted to the results of the decisions they’d made.
I’m 23,000 words into the novel (give or take) and I’m suddenly afraid I don’t have enough to write a full novel. I’m theoretically a quarter to a third of the way through, and now I’m thinking I’m too close to solving the central problem of the novel to make it book-length. My fear is that if I continue as planned, the novel would end at 50,000 words, and that’s far too short.
I do this on a regular basis with both writing and knitting. With knitting, it terrifies me that I’ll run out of yarn. For example, those socks I made for my husband for Christmas 2008? He has bigger feet than I do, so I bought four balls of sock yarn. Then while knitting, I panicked and went back to buy two more. Of course, the socks finished up just fine and now I have three and a half balls of yarn left over.
With the string quartet novel, at about 76,000 words I thought, “oh no! It’s going to end too soon!” (meaning, in fewer than 10,000 words, even though 85-90,000 words is fine for women’s fiction) and then at about 90,000 I thought, “Oh no! It’s going to be too long!” It ended at 95,000 words, just where I wanted it to.
Thus my long-established habit: ever since the invention of the word count, it has frightened me. My books always seemed to have a sense about them, though, where I knew how much they needed even if I doubted it mid-writing.
Here I am, now, stuck at 23,000 words or thereabouts, afraid I’m moving through the carefully-constructed plot too quickly, and debating whether to stop now and refit it with a subplot that resonates with the theme and questions of the main plot. It would certainly be easier to do it now than to do it after completing the first draft.
Yet at the same time, I like the sense of this novel as clean, streamlined. The main character’s focus is already on her “quest” and on her work. A subplot involving her place of business or involving one of her children would definitely take up space, but would it detract from the storyline?
Oh, those decisions. I’m dwelling now with the questions and hoping an answer arises. Let the characters grow the answer to the question organically.