I just completed the first draft of my first entirely non-genre novel. It’s 78,000 words, and there’s not a single dead body in it. That makes me nervous, even though that was my intention from the start. As I store the document in a backup folder, I wonder, was there any point to all those words?
I look over my outline and my list of chapters, and I believe there is a coherent story line. I haven’t even tried yet to articulate it in one or two sentences, but I don’t get the feeling that this novel was a random walk in the woods. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, so that gives me some confidence that I had something in mind as I wrote it.
Plenty of stuff happens. A guy lost his job, his wife left him, taking the kids, he became obsessed by a dream he couldn’t fulfill. There were two romantic relationships, both valid, though only one stuck. There was a secret formula discovered, then lost, then found again. There was an evil villain, mysteriously motivated, but not a moustache-twirler. There were shadowy thugs and one guy even got beat up a little. He wasn’t badly hurt.
Enough stuff happened, I hope, that the characters had opportunity to reveal who they are, and enough stuff to drive alternating peaks and valleys of dramatic tension. So it should be a readable novel. I have this nagging doubt that it’s mundane and boring.
I’ve never done a novel without the crutch of genre’s exogenous tension. Whodunit? Everybody wants to know that. That kind of drama is baked into the cake in a mystery. In this non-genre novel, the stakes are high for several characters, but not baked in. They had to be shown and detailed in every case. Did I do that? Right now, I’m not confident.
It’s a first draft, very rough, and when I read it again in a few months, I’ll be better able to assess whether it is a solid, character-driven story, as I intended, or merely a long description of some vague characters walking around in a fog.