The past several days I did manage to get some quality work time in on my writing. I finished editing, and went back even to those first chapters which I had previously declared "finished". Well, they're really finished now! At least, for a while. Until I look at them again . . . .
I took out those two chapters, as I mentioned last time, and went back and rewrote them. I also edited that somewhat, and have moved on. I'm currently in Chapter 9, over half-way into it. The word count is growing and I'm happy with the story as it is developing, and especially the characters, the way they have distinct personalities and perspectives. They are a lot of fun to work with!
The tone of the piece has been changing due to the gravity of the situation. I did manage to bring it back in line with the earlier chapters for the two chapters that I tossed and rewrote. I may have to do the same with the new Chapter 9 and maybe several more, writing then rewriting, to develop the story then bring it back into the style that has otherwise been established. That's okay with me, as long as I get the end results I'm looking for, and so far I have been able to do that.
Again, this problem is due to the fact that the story started out somewhat light-hearted in nature, and has become much more serious as the plot events unfolded. I don't want to just make it silly and funny throughout -- that would be totally out of step with the realities that occur along the way -- but I want to keep the same optimistic and fun quality, letting that resurface whenever it can, even in the face of the difficulties. Also, I tend to shift to a deeper, heavier, style with longer sentences and different sentence patterns and diction when dealing with weighty matters, whereas otherwise this story is lighter with shorter sentences and a faster-moving rhythm.
Wynn noted that I count words in a recent comment she posted. Yes, but I don't actually count them every day necessarily. I've gotten away from that sort of intense monitoring of words produced, which I used to engage in regularly. These days I'm just checking to see that I am making progress, and I am trying to keep my chapters to certain lengths, not too long. I am noting the word counts and chapters edited since they help me see that I am making reasonable progress for the hours spent. When the word count is too low, or the editing too little, then I know I'm not being as productive as I should be. Also, when they go up, I can see that I am on a roll and that feels good. Obviously, we each do whatever works for us. In my case, quantifying and monitoring help me to keep on track and estimate the time I will need.
On that note, I'm still hoping that I will complete this novel by the end of this calendar year. Hopefully, that will mean completely finished and edited, and with any luck even before Christmas. I'd like to send copies of it as gifts to a few friends who would enjoy reading it. And after I let it sit over the holidays, I'll make any last-minute fixes then start packaging it and trying to get an agent or publisher interested in it, hopefully starting in January, 2008!
And then somewhere in all this I'll get back to work on my other two novels!
Wishing everyone much progress now that "writing weather" is on its way,
I finished editing chapters 1-6 and then I took chapters 7-8 and put them in an outtakes file. That's why the word count fell ... the other few thousand words have been sidelined. I'll rewrite those chapters, using the basic ideas I already came up with, but reworking them to fit better now that I've done all the editing on the other chapters.
I shared the first two chapters with a reader and there was an enthusiastic response, with two words in particular to describe the story: "interesting" and "well-written". That's encouraging!
So, I'm pretty well there now, finished with the review and revision and ready to plow on ahead with new material. I'll be getting to work on that tonight.
BTW, visit Wynn's blog this week for news on the writers' conference she attended!
The past week I edited the existing chapters, as planned. One chapter grew so long that I had to split it in half, meaning I now have 8 chapters instead of 7 chapters. I thought of just cutting stuff out to bring that one chapter back down to size, but I realized there were interesting and relevant things there that needed drawing out, so as I drew them out, I cut them off and made a separate chapter out of it.
The "darkness" that had me bothered last week is much more tolerable now. I added some lighter stuff in where I could to balance it out, and managed to keep the sense that something dark has happened but we're still in a fun story in spite of it. I especially enjoyed adding extra bits of dialog into a couple of scenes to draw out more of the humor between the characters. It's humor for humor's sake, and it was fun to work with. It also shows a little more of a glimpse into how these characters really would interact with each other, if we could watch them beyond the narrow focus of what's happening in this plot line. Adds a sense that they have lives beyond just the story.
I'm still trying to get these chapters just right so that I can then stop, refocus, and plow on ahead with new material. I look forward to writing a few more chapters all at once, like I did with these existing chapters. I have about a third of the novel already -- written in one week, edited in one week (plus...). I just need to wrap this up as best I can and push on as soon as I can.
I can say at this point that Chapters 1-5 are pretty much DONE, and Chapter 6 is nearly done, and then I still have to work more on Chapters 7-8. If I can get a lot of work done this weekend, I might be able to wrap this up, but I suspect it will take another week to accomplish this editing, and by mid-week or late next week I'll finally be able to break new ground again. That's fine. I really like the quality and nature of the stuff I'm producing.
I'll post again Saturday, hopefully, with more news.
I was very busy with other obligations the past few days, so I didn't get to write as much as I had hoped. I'm still in Chapter 7, though nearly done with it. That's two more chapters, and about 4,0000 + more words.
The story took a dark turn -- I guess that's because bad things happened that are a part of the story, stuff the main character has to fight against and eventually overcome (hopefully) by the end of the novel. It's kind of sad to see that, since things were so upbeat at the beginning. Gee, I feel terrible unleashing all these nasty things on the unsuspecting! All in the name of conflict, or drama, or tragedy.
It's becoming more of a struggle to keep the focus and clarity. The story started very strong, maybe 99% final draft quality in the first three chapters. But since I haven't actually planned this one out in detail, and don't actually know what I'm doing, just winging it, inevitably I'm having to feel my way along, and that shows up more the farther I go. It's unavoidable. I'll have to edit for sure, though the prose is still stronger than it was in early drafts of my other novels.
I'm still on track with the basic plot but the story has evolved a lot -- a good sign in itself -- and that means I am asking myself a lot of questions during those times when I'm not writing. If it gets to be too much, I'll just stop and write out a simple outline and pin things down, but I'm hoping to avoid that this time around, so that I can draw more on creativity and intuition during the writing process. I guess it's an effort to counteract all the planning I've done the past couple of years, an effort to re-establish creative spontaneity, on schedule of course.
As 7 of 9 said in an episode of Star Trek Voyager(tm), one of my all-time favorite lines on television, "The fun will now commence."
JASPER is now 25% complete! I've written 5 chapters, with a word count at 15,800 words. I also went back through and edited; I'm still tweaking the last chapter just a little.
So far, the story continues to write itself, moving along quickly and easily as things go. The voice or tone of the prose is distinctive and flows smoothly.
I'm following the basic plan for the story that I came up with in my mind (no written notes!). The plot details are evolving, with surprises along the way, things I never expected, but I just went with the new ideas as they came up. Even with the unexpected twists and turns, everything is still on track according to the larger plan, which means I'm both following a basic blueprint and also allowing for innovation.
One thing that is helping a lot is something I worked on in the second complete draft of THE REFLECTING STONE, which is writing shorter chapters and emphasizing the "cliff-hanger" at the end of each chapter, the suspenseful moment that makes you want to turn the page to find out what happens next. My first draft for TRS featured fewer, longer chapters, running about 10,000 words each. These long chapters were broken into sections, separated by skipped lines. The various scenes were short enough and comparable to typical chapters, but they did not always end with as much suspense, since they were steps along the way to a larger pay-off by the end of the 10,000-word story units. By keeping the chapters shorter, I have to get that punch in for each one, which means a larger peak occurs every few thousand words, instead of every 10,000 words. It's certainly much better to do it this way in terms of building suspense and holding interest.
Still, I think in terms of larger units -- the 12 steps of my 12-step outline, based on the 3-act structure. With Chapter 5 now complete, JASPER stands at the end of Act I, about to embark on Act II (3 steps complete, 9 to go). What is different now is that I'm equating the steps with word count, rather than chapter count. For this novel to come in around 60,000 words, Act I needs to run about 15,000 words: mission accomplished!
Enough about the details of the process. What's the story about?
I'll update my web site with a little more detail....
For some reason, putting a numerical value on my progress with the "Jasper" story is like rating a sexual encounter while still in the middle of it.
"Would you rate that as a 10?"
"I was thinking of a "9".
How can you put a measure on true love?
The story is moving along well, the honeymoon phase still in full swing. I'm now 1/8 of the way through the story, with a goal of about 60,000 words. I want this one to be shorter, simpler, funner, for me and the reader. So far, so good. If this continues, I'll finish the complete manuscript within a month. Based on what's already written, it might need only minor editing and then I'll have a finished product. That would be cool.
The next few chapters will tell me whether this ease of writing will continue or whether I'll end up needing to stop and plan things out in detail, something I was hoping to avoid. I'm trying to use my new internalized sense of storytelling. It's an experiment, a risk, but one I think I'm up to.
Yes, I'm game. Just gotta keep the flow going. Stay in the mood. Feel the story, let my instincts lead me naturally toward the inevitable climax.
I began work recently on a new novel which could be part of a new series. It focuses on -- well, I updated my web site with news about it, so you can read about it there in the WIP'S Section. Look for the keyword "Jasper".
It's interesting how well this new story is coming together, how tightly the first two chapters are written. Clearly I've learned a lot through my work on THE REFLECTING STONE and THE ISLE OF THE DEMIGODS. I've internalized a lot of the writing process at this point, which I was hoping would happen. I'm thinking in story terms, rather than abstract ideas. I don't have to struggle to put it all together anymore -- I readily see what the pieces are, where they belong.
I'll keep working on the new story even as I continue work on my other two WIP's.
This past week I re-read the entire second draft of THE REFLECTING STONE and gained a lot of new insights into the story and what it needs at this point. It felt very good seeing real progress in my work over time. I produced about 10,000 words in new notes for the STONE/ISLE series, and found answers to a LOT of the questions that still linger. I'm almost finished with that planning. Once I can tie down the last few questions, I'll be ready to launch the THIRD COMPLETE DRAFT of THE REFLECTING STONE. I had commented previously that I wasn't sure whether to rewrite all or parts (about half). Some of it is very solid. However, I think it would be worthwhile to make another complete draft, to further grow the story and draw out the details in the scenes. Also, I'm still in search of the exact tone and style for the prose (something which is no struggle at all for the new Jasper Series).
The new novel ("Jasper") currently stands at about 4,700 words, written in two days, chapters 1 and 2.
Altogether, I re-read an entire draft and produced about 15k words of new material last week. Not bad for my first week back at work!