After really helpful and insightful comments from the awesome Steve Cooper, N K Kingston, Paul Stephenson, and Derek Muir, who carefully read through all 25,000 words, I have now performed the final, pre-submission edits on my novella, The Giant. Credit is also due to all those who have commented on earlier drafts over the years, especially M F Prior, L R G Carter, Dave Tallerman, Alasdair Stuart, James Targett, and Ellen J Allen. You guys all rock.
I know a lot of people would have written several novels in the time it’s taken me to squeeze out one little novella, but it’s been hard scraping the time together to get this baby finished alongside my other commitments. The support and encouragement of other writers, as well as their criticism and suggestions, has meant a lot to me.
I first came up with the idea in 2004 when I was playing with thoughts about what the consequences of traditional fantasy tropes would be if freed from conventional assumptions. As well as a terrible piece of flash on x-ray vision and a too-unconventional-to-sell short on telepathy, there was The Giant. I wondered what life would really be like for giants if human society were as prosperous and well-developed as it seems in the traditional fantasy quasi-medieval setting. I concluded that far from the wealthy possessors of castles and golden-egg laying geese, a healthy population of giants would be difficult to sustain. That was the premise, and the story – about villagers who find a dying giant on the edge of their town, what they decide to do about it, and what the consequences are for the giant himself – has changed very little since then. It just turned out to take a lot longer to tell than I ever envisaged.
I knew it wasn’t a novel. The tale itself is relatively simple, and well-contained. I knew it would be a long short-story, but I was thinking 6-8,000 words, not 25,000. Even when I got to 8,000 and realised it was nowhere near finished, I thought there was only another 8,000 or so words in it. That would make it very long, but not impossible to sell as a short. When I got to 16,000, though, I realised that what I was looking at was a novella. In some ways, my overly conservative estimates did me a favour. Whilst I have many, many unfinished novels on the go, I kept pressing on with the novella because I continued to think I was almost done, that another couple of thousand words would do it. I’m not naturally a short-story writer, but holding down four jobs whilst doing a part-time PhD didn’t give me much hope for making swift progress on a novel. Knowing that those who had read the drafts liked the story, and feeling like I had half a chance of getting it done was a real motivator.
I’ve written longer chunks of writing than this before. My unfinished novel, Cyborgs and Androids, which I started work on at about the same time, got to 50,000 words before I got stuck. To have finished a longer piece of work, had it go out to first readers, and completed the necessary edits based on their feedback, marks a significant step. Now I now what that length of story looks like, and that even a self-contained plot like this works out at about 25,000 words. Perspective, is what it is.
Now it’s off with an editor, and we shall see.