You know that sensation of being stared at? That if-I-don’t-look-maybe-it’s-not-there prickly feeling? On Friday, as I sat writing near the window in our family room, I was hit was that feeling. Slowly I looked up.
“What the heck is that?” A little critter stood erect on the deck, peering in at me. Now “little” is a relative term. “Little” is the chickadees that flit in for a midday meal at our birdfeeder, compared to the Steller’s Jays who swoop down with a screech to snatch at the sunflower seeds . “Little” is the six inch Douglas squirrels that frequent our bird feeder, compared to… well, compared to this cat-sized critter that continued to stare at me.
We’ve lived here sixteen years, and the intruder turned out to be the first black Eastern Gray Squirrel to drop in for a visit. As soon as he moved, his bushy tail came into sight and his species became obvious, but never had I seen a squirrel anywhere near this size — literally the size of a cat!
Most times if you asked me I’d say the squirrels around here are cute. I don’t mind that they occasionally bully the birds at the feeder, or chitter anxiously at me if I step out onto the deck during their mealtime. But this… this behemoth… wasn’t cute at all. In fact, I did a bit of research and discovered he is considered an invasive species, and shouldn’t be in our area at all.
Eight Eastern Grey Squirrels were originally imported from New York in 1914 and introduced into Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre park bordering the city of Vancouver’s downtown core. The assumption was they would remain hemmed into the area because of ocean on three sides of the park and the city on the fourth side. Heh! They shouldn’t have underestimated a rodent’s determination and ingenuity.
The writing analogy I gleaned from this is that if a novel is good at 90,000 words it is not necessarily better at 150,000 or more words. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that beginning novelists either struggle to write a story of more than 50,000 words, or can’t staunch the flow before 225,000. The first draft of my first novel was one of the lengthy ones, and my dear friend and mentor repeatedly urged me to pare it down.
At the time, I thought it was more important to write a good story and let the word count land where it might, but later, as I reluctantly cut away many bits of verbosity I began to realize that I had allowed my muse to run off at the mouth, thoroughly out of literary control! Proven authors might get away with it, but no agent I approached was likely to risk trying to sell anything over 90,000 words written by a debut author.
So, no, I’d say more words and bigger squirrels are not a good thing, at least not in my neck of the woods.
How long are the stories you’ve been writing? If you’re published, do you find successive books get longer, or is there a set word count for your genre or publisher?
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