Status as of Day 28
Day 28 total: 5,096 words Total: 83,650/~34,814 (in progress)
Wow, I had not realized how long it has been since my last update.
Much of the past week was spent dealing with real life issues. I replaced a broken garbage disposal, dealt the fallout from my son’s first fight at school, am working on getting my daughter transferred to a math/science magnet school after the semester has already started, and got sick (which I’m still recuperating from). Knock on wood, all of those things either went well or are in the process of being resolved. Today has been a total loss in terms of writing time, but I may be able to get some done in the evening.
From a writing perspective, I had three very good days, including yesterday, two average days, and two terrible days over the weekend where I wrote 1,000 words combined. I now have all or most of 15 chapters written, plus portions of another three chapters, with about 16 chapters to go. I’m adjusting the setting to fit the dramatic needs of the story in some places and creating a more detailed setting in others.
I had hoped to have more of the main manuscript complete by this point, but overall I’m satisfied with how this has gone. I’m learning by doing. The real key is going to be completing this work, and that’s going to take a few more months, most likely.
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Day 21 total: 3,041 words Total: 64,682/~23,500 (in progress)
Two big goals yesterday: working on the first two chapters of Act II, and reworking the outline for the last half of the novel. When I made some big decisions about the character arc, it ended up more or less invalidating the original climax of the story. At the time, I decided not to worry too much about mapping that out in detail. I just tried to finish whipping Act I into shape and get an idea of how Act II would progress.
Now I think I have an equally dramatic, less byzantine, and somewhat more satisfying conclusion outlined. In addition, I think that the plot twists I discarded for this manuscript can serve as the heart of a sequel. You know, just in case. 🙂
On a lesser note, I went back into a couple earlier chapters and added or replaced a few paragraphs of setting-oriented material. This had the effect of hopefully making several scenes both less generic descriptively and more exciting. This is a process I plan to continue throughout the drafting stage. For other writers, it might work better to lay out the setting in exhaustive detail before beginning to write. For me, all I ended up with in the past was large setting documents full of details that were interesting to me as facts but not tied clearly to characters or stories. So I’ve gone with a broader picture that I’m filling in as things suggest themselves to me. The risk with that approach, I’m guessing, is inconsistencies in the manuscript.
So far, Scrivener has been very helpful in tracking this process. I’m hopeful that by using meta-tags, I’ll be able to identify all the instances where I’ve referenced a key character, location, or concept. My current plan is to review the manuscript on a weekly basis and do some book-keeping to keep those tags as up-to-date as possible while highlighting or resolving discrepancies that arise (depending upon how readily a solution presents itself). I always have some days where I feel blocked on the story front and that would give me a useful task to pursue while staying engaged with the story as a whole.
Hopefully these posts are remaining somewhat lucid as I plow forward. It’s amazing how tiring this whole manuscript process is. I hope that one builds up endurance with writing the way you can build up physical endurance.
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Day 19 & 20 total: 3972 words Total: 61,641/~21,000 (in progress)
Busy weekend as predicted. Saw the Avengers with the family yesterday, had a blast. On the writing front, finally wrapped up the major changes to the six chapters that comprise Act I, wrote the first chapter of the next Act, and am about halfway through the following chapter. Still maintaining a solid daily average, though the past five days have really bounced up and down.
Happy to be moving forward again. Kind of weird to be exploring brand new scenes instead of revising what’s already on the page. I hope that I can build some new momentum with these chapters. Have finally gotten my total words written to current manuscript ratio down under 3:1 at last. It would be nice to get that down to 2:1 or less. Looks like the manuscript might be headed for about 75,000 words total, but that’s subject to change as things develop.
On another note, this is the halfway point of my original time frame. I feel like things are going better than I anticipated they would at this stage. I’ve written more in these 20 days than I did in the previous year.
Edit: The paragraph below makes it sound a bit like this has been an easy transition to kick start my writing. It’s more accurate to say that I’m generally happy at the moment with the sacrifices that I’ve made to focus more on writing. I’d like to do some more volunteering at elementary school, but that’s been difficult to fit into the schedule. And I’m sure I’m losing some of the physical conditioning I built up in the past year. But though I’ve been tired as a result of the writing, I feel like my overall mood has also been more positive and that my family has benefited on the whole.
Most critically, I’ve been keeping up with my usual school duties plus extras like added music practices and new sports activities for the kids. I admit I haven’t volunteered as often as in years past, but that’s largely a side effect of having a child in junior high. I’m not working out quite as frequently, but I feel like I’m getting a lot out of my efforts–I set a personal best in a Crossfit Workout called the Cindy yesterday (22 rounds of 5 pullups, 10 pushups, and 15 squats in 19:32). There are definitely some areas I can improve upon, but I’ve got another 20 days or so for that. Then it will come down to trying to hold onto a solid hour of writing time each day and being productive with that.
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Day 18 total: 5,076 words Total: 57,669/~17,500 (in progress)
I tell you, if I had just done one draft of every chapter without revising anything, I’d finish the whole novel in 30 days! Well, probably not, though it feels like it some days. And I’m pretty sure I’d end up with a manuscript I couldn’t bear to read through afterwards, because that has happened before with a shorter effort.
Anyway, yesterday I got a lot done by one set of metrics, not so much by another. Once again, I probably need to learn how to revise my chapters without rewriting things wholesale, but usually what happens is that I look at the earlier draft for a bit and a bunch of changes suggest themselves and by the time I get started moving bits around and reframing scenes and so on, it’s just easier to start writing from scratch.
Nearly done with all the revisions I wanted to do for Act I. Reworked one chapter that I had originally planned to skip and probably should have in the interest of forward progress, but it was one of those things where I was reviewing the narrative leading into the following chapter and I felt inspired by a few ideas.
Act I is probably going to come in at just under 15,000 words at this point; the higher total given above is my estimate of what I can salvage from chapters that got cut from Act I but have content that is likely to show up later in the newly reconfigured storyline.
Today promises to be quite full with family activities and household chores, so I’m not sure how much I’ll get done. At least I have an idea of how I want today’s scenes to go, so hopefully I can hit the ground running. Sunday, if all goes well, I’ll finally be charging into Act II. Then will come the real test of whether I’ve learned to write first and then revise or if I’m still stuck in these habits of going through three drafts of a story arc sequence (two-three chapters) before pressing on!
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Day 17 total: 1265 words Total: 52,593/? (in progress)
Got a late start yesterday, no real excuses other than being afraid to confront the pages, which I sublimated into a mix of useful map-making mixed with cartographic procrastination. But it ended up all right. I went back through Chapter 1 and have almost whipped it into the kind of writing that I want. At the risk of jinxing myself, here’s the opening:
Fire rained down from the sky, setting canvas and flesh ablaze. Burning men and Goblins leapt from the rails and the rigging, falling like shooting stars into the sea, only to find that the water’s kiss would not extinguish the alchemical flames that ate their flesh.
Rone swam down, illuminated by the fires raging on the waves above him, pursuing the outline of a sinking wooden chest. He swam until the water grew murky and the chest was lost from sight, until the blood roared in his ears and he thought his lungs would burst.
In the fading light writhed a dark silhouette, a cloud of curious ink that paced his descent like a shadow.
D. Sims, Illyria’s Shadow*
Now, based upon reflection and advice from friends and family (and even from blogger vnw), I think the best thing to do is finish Chapter 1, jump ahead to the last chapter of Act I, revise part of it with an eye toward facilitating the transition to the next section, and then move forward to Act II, leaving behind notes on what I might correct within those intervening chapters. I think the key for me was feeling as though I could polish the prose and evoke something of the sensations and mood that I wanted to create. But, as wiser people than me have noted, that’s for the revision stage.
Thought I’d mention a few more books and other resources that I’ve enjoyed referencing as I try to polish up aspects of the setting and give it more depth:
My tastes are nothing if not eclectic when it comes to history and sources. 🙂
Well, time to get to work.
*kind of a working title
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Three-day total: 10,265 words Total: 51,328*/? (see below)
Well, I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve hit a block and been unable to work around it with much success so far. Not a block in terms of getting words down, because I’ve been averaging over 3,000 words a day.
The problem is the number to the right hand side of that slash up above. My net total is actually decreasing because I keep reworking the first Act of the novel. I wrote three versions of the Act I ending, gateway chapter called for in my original outline before I realized that I just can’t make it work without hand-waving too much in the way of common sense. So I scrambled frantically to replot on Monday and then start revising/rewriting chapters to fit.
I’m now on target for six chapters in Act I instead of nine, and though the chapters have gotten a little longer, it’s still looking like perhaps 15,000 words total instead of 20,000.
I also got into a bit of a funk because I just don’t feel like my current writing does a good enough job of transporting the reader to another time and place, which is a key function of a fantasy story. This failing is partly due to the fact that I haven’t focused as much on thinking through all the little details of the setting for this effort, choosing instead to focus on character and story.
So right now I’m bummed. I can still say that this process has been useful because it is forcing me to write and work on story with an intensity I haven’t approached in many years, if ever. But I am less convinced each day that I’m producing a real novel manuscript. This inability to let go of flawed beginnings and sustain my personal faith in a novel through to the finish has dogged me before and I am afraid that I’m going to let myself down again.
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Today for the weekend: 8,463 words Total: 41,603*/19,749 (see below)
Whewh! What a weekend. Saturday we went to a friend’s house to watch the Boise State football game for a few hours and Sunday we attended a big anniversary celebration for our church. I had sort of forgotten about both of these events when I made my big revision plans for the weekend. Absent-minded writers and all that.
I finished revising Chapter 3 and revised Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 as well. Major rewrites as I tried to do four things:
- Shorten the chapters individually and the first Act as a whole (I’ve cut the average chapter length by nearly 9% and the length of Act I by nearly 20%)
- Inject some more drama into some of the scenes
- Improve the believability of how a few key characters acted in some big confrontations
- Corrected a plot point problem I had overlooked the first time around
I saved snapshots of all the early chapter drafts in Scrivener so that I won’t lose anything interesting that could be reused later or reinserted based on reader comments somewhere down the line.
I am exhausted. Didn’t get my normal workouts done in my desperation to get everything done and keep up with my schedule plans. Hopefully I will be able to wrap up the revisions to Act I tomorrow and then push into Act II and just let the ideas flow. It seems to work best for me when I write freely to begin with, then come back through with a red pen mentality to edit the material. Sort of like building a model and then mashing up that clay and sculpting it again.
As far as word counts go, I’m just barely on track for my NaNoWriMo goal by one measure and well ahead of it by another, as you can see in the split counts above. Guess which measure I will use to evaluate my progress personally? 🙂
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