Sunday, May 07, 2006

Taking the Time to Do It Right

Thanks, Sue, for your comment! I appreciate your encouragement, believe me! And the kind words that others leave as well. They really do help.

I'm discovering just how significant this task is! Writing an epic fantasy novel -- putting in the effort to do my best to write a first-rate, publishable novel that readers will get wrapped up in and not want to put down -- is quite a huge undertaking! But I'm enjoying it.

I've been slow to update this weekend because I wanted to give myself more time to try to meet my goals before sharing results. It turns out this weekend I have ended up following the path of intellectual curiosity, indulging in whatever tasks seemed helpful to me so that I can do the best work I can as I finish up this complete draft. This has meant NOT storming ahead, as I had planned, but instead going back over things, rereading, editing, etc. I made some progress, but am still hovering at 99,000 words plus, just short of the 100k mark! This is NOT defeat. I have been VERY busy. Read on!

Specifically, I completely reread and edited Chapter 8, Chapter 9 and the first half of Chapter 10, which I had already written as of my last posting (approx. 25k words altogether). I added pieces to scenes, but also removed a long section in this most recent chapter, or my word count would have been more like 105k right now, but that scene needed to go (I cut and pasted it into my "outtakes" file).

I also scanned my way through the entire novel, 440+ pages, making a glossary of characters, places, events and other stuff as a reference for me as I seek to tie pieces together. This gave me a chance to create names for a number of minor characters that appear along the way, which I also edited into the earlier chapters (for example, changing "the tall one" to "Dreng" (an actual Nordic name). I had fun naming two thugs who tortured the main character: their names are "Glum" and "Odd", also real Nordic names, and rather chilling as they appear in the scene.

This work on the glossary allowed me another, even more significant benefit: I had a chance to skim over the entire story, reading some sections in detail, from page 1 to the current last page, refreshing my mind on the many scenes, characters and conflicts along the way. This is obviously beneficial, helping me build a more complete context as I finish the final chapters.

I have also taken time for REFLECTION, dreaming over and over again of possible endings, building on the one version I currently favor. I dreamed my way through the resolution of the final chapter (Chapter 12), the current chapter (Chapter 10), the next chapter with the big climax (Chapter 11), and am still pondering ways to get the main character reunited with his family by or before the ending. I have a strong "vision" of about half of what remains to be written, including most of the really important moments. I need to continue to work in visualizing the remaining pieces, which are in my outline, but I'm trying to get a handle on how they look, sound and feel. I also managed to dream up things to add to other scenes I have already written, and thought of some scenes here or there that could be added, or ways existing scenes could be morphed into new versions of themselves, all to flesh out the world and the experiences of the characters, heighten the tension, etc.

Thus, I am not only letting all this material percolate a little to get the best take on the ending before I plough into it, but I am also seeing possibilities for the editing process, and considering how extensive I want that to be, how extensively I am willing to go into it in terms of time and effort. I see that if I allow myself the time to do it right rather than rushing that editing, I can substantially improve what is already a great story. It does help to focus not only on the current task (writing the last chapters), but also to keep one eye on what's to come (in this case, the editing process). That is a trick that helps me keep the current work in perspective.

I worked all night Saturday night, starting late, and it's 1 pm Sunday and I'm still here at my computer. That's probably ten hours actual work time. I also worked a few hours Saturday morning. Other things came up at the start of this weekend, important things, so I could not devote the time to this I had planned to, but I made up for it as best I could. I'm going to take a nap now, then I hope to work some more Sunday night, and will wait until Monday morning (early) to post my "official" weekly update so that I can include any more progress I make over the weekend.

I still need to write one last big scene for Chapter 10. It's a confrontation that preceeds the climax in the next chapter, but it is also the big scene that brings out all the "issues", the social commentary, etc., prior to the ending and the way things will shake out at the end. So, there is a lot of stuff in the mix with the material right now and although I had hoped for much more dramatic word count progress, I did accomplish a lot and I believe my choice not to rush was a good one.

I hope by the end of Sunday night's work I will have met my minimum goal for this week, which was to complete Chapter 10. It's half-way there!

Good luck to everyone else out there writing a novel!


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