On Just Bringing A Bomb

The first draft of my novel currently sits on my USB stick at 96,141 96,505 97,050 words. To my vague annoyance, I would likely be over the 100,000 hump by now, but I had to delete 2,500 or so words of dead end plotting some time over last weekend. No big deal. These things happen.

It is the main reason why, aside from book reviews, I have been neglecting this blog slightly. The truth is, aside from the somewhat exciting bit back in November there just hasn’t been much to talk about. I tend to write 500-1000 words every day, except for some days (usually one a week) where I take some time to cool off and play some video games or watch Star Wars again. Those kinds of updates can be made in 140 characters, so I relegate them to my Twitter feed.

So, why the update now? Well, it’s related to the recent deletion of 2,500 words. It was difficult. I found myself sitting down to write every day and having to chew over it for half an hour or more. I lost the passion within that chapter, I had no sense of where the story was going, and it was turning what is ostensibly my favourite thing into a chore. Since deleting it and retracing my steps back to the end of the last chapter, I’ve gone in a different direction with it and made excellent progress.

It was around this point in time I was hit by a realisation. I have to lost another 22,403 words. It’s actually the bit that comes directly after my NaNoWriMo progress, an entire “part” I’ll be losing. Part Four: The Gentlemen Gunfighters (a phrase I shamelessly stole from The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt). The thing is, although I like what happens in that part, it doesn’t serve any purpose in the overall story. In fact, it kind of wrecks the pacing of the whole thing.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Fair warning, what follows are major spoilers for the Dark Knight Rises, the most recent Batman film. It’s old enough now that I feel okay spoiling it, but if you haven’t seen it, I’ll be examining the first two acts in detail.

The film opens with Bane hijacking a plane to take a scientist, Dr Pavel. It’s a cool action scene, I’ll admit. Then we arrive in Gotham to find Bruce Wayne is a recluse, and his company’s in danger because he poured a whole boatload of money into a clean energy reactor that he then refused to switch on in case someone weaponised it.

Catwoman breaks into Wayne Manor to steal Bruce’s fingerprints, which she then gives to a corrupt politician, who is employed by Bane. They use the fingerprints to buy a load of shitty stock in Bruce’s name, then Bane attacks the stock exchange to cause a market collapse. Bruce loses everything, his company goes to his board of directors, and they then give Bane access to the reactor, where he uses Dr Pavel to turn it into a bomb, which he then threatens Gotham with by giving the on button to a random citizen.

…Why couldn’t Bane just bring a bomb?

Seriously, that’s well over an hour of film just to set up the fact that Bane has a bomb. Hollywood’s weird demonization of clean energy aside, why the need to be so complicated with it? I can easily believe that as the leader of the League of Shadows, Bane can get his hands on a nuclear bomb, so why the need to have so much unnecessary setup?

That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the course of writing this book. Brevity is king. I love writing character moments more than anything, but 22,403 words of them is too much. Sometimes you’ve got to cut the unnecessary stuff and just bring a bomb.

Further adventures in Writing:

“How do you choose which idea to use?”
What does it mean to be a writer?
On taking a step back in order to move forwards

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