Sunday, December 4, 2011

Leftover Words

L. G. C. Smith

I write like I cook for holidays. If a twelve-pound turkey is enough, mine will be twenty, and I might bake a ham, too. If two kinds of pie will suffice, I will make five. And a cake. And a pumpkin cheesecake. If a 75K word novel works for most of the world, mine will be a minimum of 125K. One of mine is 160K. (It reads fast, I promise.)

I try to write a short story, and I end up with a novella. I try to write a novella, and I end up with a novel. And one time, I tried to write a novel, which I did finish (the 160K word thriller), and ended up with two additional novellas (one of which is Staindrop, available now from many fine ebook emporia), a 75K word novel, and 150K words of variously related bits and pieces. These last are my leftovers.

In the best of all possible worlds, my time-traveling Anglo-Saxon warlord kings brought into the twenty-first century to bolster counter-terrorism efforts in Britain will eventually find reader favor akin to that enjoyed by Karen Marie Moning, Diana Gabaldon and Sherrilyn Kenyon. When that happens (a writer can dream, can’t she?), my lengthy forays into my seventh-century hero’s experiences with modern-day life might be of use as giveaways for loyal readers. There’s a lot of story in those leftovers.

For now, however, they’re sitting in files like so many pickle jars in the refrigerator. They won’t go bad. They have an indefinite shelf life. It seems a waste to toss them out. So I keep them as I forge ahead with new projects and work on getting Warlord published as well as it deserves.

My Grandpa Johnson was a South Dakota rancher who reserved a part of the field south of the house and barn for broken machinery that might come in handy one day. He had a small forge, and he did a little blacksmithing, so he could reshape an old pin to fit a new use with a little fire and some hammer work. I like to think of my leftover words as being similarly adaptable. They’re a resource. A potential treasure trove. A word hoard. Leftover the way the Staffordshire Hoard of gold and garnets was when it was buried, its value waiting to be rediscovered.

Just to be clear, though, now would be a good time to discover any food leftovers from Thanksgiving and toss them out. Except for pickles and jam. Those you can keep.


Rachael Herron said...

Oh, that's a lovely way to think about the leftover words. I, too, have a stash of both pickles and sickles saved up for when they might come in handy.

Barbara said...

You can never have too many words stashed away for a rainy day. Excellent post.

BTW, the last of the (fuzzy) Thanksgiving bounty glugged down the disposal yesterday. Thanks for the reminder.

Sophie Littlefield said...

the thing is, your leftover words are sparklier than a lot of folks' agonised-over final drafts.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Rachael, the sickles come in handy as workshop fodder. Then I never have to embarrass anyone else. That said, I do simply toss out stuff in drafts that doesn't work. My leftovers are back story and side stories. World building. Character building. Things I'll need to know later. They're never intended as part of the novels that spawn them.

Barbara, I just threw out the last of my nasty Turkey-day leftovers, too. Right now, Sophie and Rachael would be comfortable with my refrigerator. Lots of empty acreage.

Sophie, I will only say that I'm pretty sure that's not true, but thank you. I'm pretty sure it is true that there are more efficient ways to write. :)

Juliet Blackwell said...

I love your "leftover" words! And yes, thanks for the reminder to clean out the fridge ;-)

Nicole Peeler said...

This made me want cake. :-(

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