Okay, I’ll admit it. I goofed. I started writing what I thought would be a sweet Christmas novella for the 2017 Christmas boxed set by the Authors of Main Street. Except my simple story has grown in length. The guidelines we follow are pretty relaxed and simple for these boxed sets. All new, great stories of novella length, 18K-40K words (I promise no one counts words), holiday themed (often an underlying theme), and no cliffhangers.
Here’s the dilemma. A romance usually ends in certain places such as the commitment for a lasting relationship such as an engagement ring or a wedding ring. So what have I done? He’s given her the engagement ring, actually without too much fanfare. The hardest part was getting to the point of asking. 😉 But I’m about to tip over the max word count. I really need another 20k-30k words to finish this story. If I wrap it up for Christmas, I’m missing a big chunk of the story!
- So do I rip part of the story away? No, because I’m not going to take the life out of this story.
- Do I quickly tie up the story and put a bow on it? I hate reading stories where I’m so into the characters that when a writer does that I want to scream no and never read that author again.
- Do I just tip over the word count and warn my fellow authors out here on Main Street? Oops! I think I just told them. (It’s not nice to hog the space in the boxed set.)
- Or do I write this one until I feel it’s finished, and then write another for the boxed set? Time! I need more time!!
And there’s one more problem, I already know this is not going to end on that wonderful wedding. If I ended it there, I think my readers would be furious with me. Why? Because in the real world, it wouldn’t make sense. I can’t change the timeline of certain events. Darnit! The readers would be left hanging. Not a cliffhanger, but leaving them with the feeling that they were shortchanged, because they are left with all those life questions.
So I’m sitting here making the only decision that makes any sense. It’s extremely basic. Write the story until it ends. Write the whole story, otherwise it won’t be a great story. So I’m about to go way over word count and that means I’ll have to write another story for the boxed set. I can do that.
This story tips the scale into literary fiction more than romance, even though there’s a romance tangled into it. This is a journey of two people who had found each other and have fallen madly in love. But the journey is not easy. Getting to their HEA (happily ever after) isn’t going to be solved with a wedding. It’s too complicated.
Real life is a walk through a maze filled with roses. There are plenty of thorns on those canes. The most beautiful roses often have no scent, the lowliest ones can be the sweetest, and some of the hardiest ones can be vicious with thorns. But if you take the time during the journey, you will discover the finch’s nest, the green tree frog hiding in the petals, the dizzying hum of the bees, the lady bug, and countless other creatures along the way. But there will always be those thorns, waiting to grab at your legs or shirt sleeve. So I willingly took the path with an ending in mind, but somehow I plucked a rose and found myself tangled in thorns. Yet the air is sweet, and filled with song.
I can explain story arcs to a room filled with wannabe writers. I can teach them to write a beginning, a middle, and an end. But I can’t tell them how to stay within a word count because every story will demand a certain number of words. If I ended this one with a Christmas wedding, then my readers would be furious because there’s an arc that must be completed.
So I have strayed down a path. I’m not sorry for what I’ve done. In fact, I’m thrilled with this story. It’s just not going to be a novella. There’s a great big story in this manuscript, and it needs to be told.
Guess I’ll have to write another story for our Christmas boxed set.