The past two days I've been a writing machine. My word count on the second complete draft of the JASPER novel now stands at 46,700+ words. I just finished Chapter 27. There are a few more longer chapters (but not long by my old standard of 10k words!). After that, the chapters will get shorter as the story moves faster toward its conclusion.
I'm still finding my plan is working but there are a few holes in it, which is to say there are things I don't see clearly myself, and I can't write clearly what I can't see clearly in my own mind. The current issues surround the antagonist. Nothing that can't be fixed without too much drama on my part (though there's lots of drama on the antagonist's part, of course). I see what's wrong, what's missing, and have a sense of what it needs to be. I just need to fine-tune it. That's what this draft is for. I'm seeking how the story plays out according to this new plan, and whatever shortcomings remain will come to light in the process. They are. Everything is on schedule. The next draft should finally fix the remaining problems, and then it's a matter of style, storytelling, and cutting it down to an appropriate length.
Glad to see the word count go up. Glad to see the momentum building. Love this story. It's flowing nicely now (which sort of makes up for those times when it wasn't flowing so well).
It's been ten days since my last report on the JASPER novel and I'm only up about 6,800 words. The current total is around 33,500 words. I lost some time to other things (gee, the holidays are kind of approaching, aren't they?), and also I've spent time jotting down a flood of ideas for the CHASM novel using the new Snowflake software (see previous post). I've gotten so many incredible ideas this past week it's been astonishing. The story long ago hit critical mass, and now it's at a point where my new ideas blend in perfectly with what is already established, either fleshing it out, enriching it, or correcting inconsistencies or fixing whatever minor problems remain.
It's been an incredible experience. It's definitely true that the more we plan, the better we get at planning (or writing, or editing). I can see some real progress here and the quality of it knocks my socks off. I've fallen in love with this story all over again and feel so eager right now to get back to work on it as Job One.
But, I'm still writing the second complete draft of the JASPER novel, my current Job One, and I will definitely keep my primary focus on that until it's done, hopefully within November. By the way, I did reach the half-way point -- 20 chapters done, 20 to go, which puts the expected total word count at around 65,000 words. I'll shoot for less since the goal should be 40,000. There will be some scenes to cut! The outline is working out nicely and I'm sticking to it like a charm.
I just found this out, so I'm posting as quickly as I could, but time is limited. Randy Ingermanson, whose SNOWFLAKE METHOD web page has been viewed by over a million visitors, has come out with a new piece of software to help you plan your novel. The software walks you though the planning process using the Snowflake Method. Obviously, you don't need the software to use the Snowflake Method, but if the software helps you organize your thoughts, it might be worthwhile for you. The usual selling price will be $100. It's on a special introductory sale price right now of just $20 (80% off!). I just forked over the moolah and downloaded it from his site. I haven't had time to try it out yet, but I'll do that soon and will post about it once I have.
The sale runs through Friday, November 20th, midnight (Pacific Time), I believe. Luckily I happened to find out about it today and I figured for $20 I'll bite.
Just passing along this info in case it's of interest to other writers and aspiring writers. I have no connection with Mr. Ingermanson (other than subscribing to his free newsletter) and do not receive any kickbacks or other incentives for sharing this information with you.
You might also consider the THE MARSHALL PLAN NOVEL-WRITING SOFTWARE by Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett. It's another approach and one which is very popular and well worth considering. I reviewed it recently on my blog (see earlier postings). Although I gave it 3 stars for lack of customization, it is a solid program built around an incredibly solid method for planning novels and I do highly recommend it.
After a slow start, I've picked up a bit of momentum with the JASPER rewrite. I'm now up to 26,700+ words. I've finished 18 chapters. When I finish chapters 19 and 20, then I'll be at the half-way point. It's getting easier to write, the farther I get into it. I've stuck entirely to the plan.
The rewrite has already shown me a few weak points, issues I thought I had pinned down in the planning that preceded this draft. Nothing too major that I can't readily fix it in the next draft or in the editing. Overall, the plot framework is solid. Any changes will be made within the existing framework.
After starting a rewrite from scratch, but not feeling like it was "happening" for me, I went back to the beginning and started again. I've gotten farther already today, in just a few hours of writing, than I had all week with that other draft. I just needed to feel more connected, to open up my creativity and let it flow.
I'm in Chapter 4 now of the Second Complete Draft (just launched) of the JASPER novel. Present word count: about 7200 words, all of them written today. I'll write more later today.
I'm writing from my new and revised plan, which is laid out in a table in a word processing document in three columns: one for the main plot, one for the main subplot, and one for the antagonist's plot line. There are forty items in all distributed among the three columns, with most items in the main plot line, of course. I've already done extensive spreadsheet work and thought about sections (a la Marshall Plan), so at this point my table is quite simple and just lists a short phrase to help me identify what each scene/section/chapter is about. I know the story from heart and these simple reminders are all I need to clue me in at this point.
My current plan anticipates a final length of about 50,000 words for what has turned out to be a Middle Grade fantasy novel (ages 8-12). However, I'm writing so much for each chapter, that I'm probably on track for 80,000 to 90,000 words again. That's okay. I'll let it run however long it runs. By the time I'm into a final draft and editing and polishing it, I'll be able to bring the word count down to 40,000 words, but not more than 50,000 words. I know these novels are typically 30,000 to 40,000 words, but thanks to Harry Potter and other fantasy series many of them are now 60,000, 70,000, 90,000, even longer. I'll keep mine on the shorter end of this, but am willing to take a chance if it's a little beyond the 40,000 threshold.
I think I'll just stay in the flow and keep writing, and write my way through the entire story. I did that before, in the First Complete Draft. That draft fell apart in the second half. Although I completed it, it had major plot problems. I have supposedly fixed those problems with my new and revised plan, so trying the new plan out by writing at length in a leisurely and expansive way is probably a good thing to do. I'll get to see how the story plays out, whether I've solved all the plot issues as I think I have. Writing at length will also let me explore more fully the characters and their motivations as well as their actions. When I'm finished with this Second Complete Draft, then I'll reflect, shorten, and possibly start a Third Complete Draft. (I know of highly-successful writers who write many complete drafts to hone their stories before editing and polishing the final version. They have to practice telling the story several times to get it down. They can recognize easily when they're done, telling it the way it was meant to be told. Food for thought.)
What's nice is that my drafts these days are written in a style that is very readable, pretty close to a finished manuscript. In other words, I've spent a lot of time working on how I construct sentences and paragraphs over the past few years, and I'm turning out much better prose at the outset. I can still tweak it till the cows come home, or the dragons return to their caves, but the truth is when you start with better quality, it takes less work to tighten and polish it. I can certainly still pare it down, but the underlying sentence and paragraph patterns are solid. Score one for the hard-working!
Interestingly, the key to my success with this draft, at this point in the process, has nothing to do with plotting. What is essential right now is getting into the FLOW. I have to FEEL the story. I have to live it, to experience it with the characters. I have to get truly wrapped up in it, so that when I'm writing it, I'm able to capture it vividly. I have to have the right mind-set for the story, capture the right voice or style that works for telling it. I have to draw the characters in a way that brings them to life. I have to really get into it, or else the draft will fall flat. It's not about plotting now. It's about making it real.
Can't write from an outline?
You can, if you slow yourself down, look beyond the outline, have internalized the outline. Get beyond it, use it to guide you, but see past it. See the story. Become the story. Live and breathe the story. Bring it to life. Lose yourself in it while you do. But always, keep yourself on track, which is easy now because you KNOW the story.
I completed the dissection and re-plotting of the JASPER novel last week, and have been partly expanding on my new framework by writing more notes, and partly writing new manuscript pages. I'm eager to work on this new draft, which will be a complete draft from start to finish, but I'm finding it a bit awkward here at the outset since I changed some key aspects of the story, and am having to re-find or re-interpret the characters. It's not impossible, just a bit of a creative stretch. I expect to land on my feet soon.
The changes, specifically, are to make the MC more active, clearly the central player, with clear-cut goals for each scene. In the original version of the story, the MC's ally (close friend) was also a major player who made decisions and instigated action. He is still critically important to the story, but I'm moving some of his decisions to the MC, and restricting his decisions to ones that are necessarily HIS and not the MC's. Also, the second ally character, who is a "changeling" character (friend here, enemy there, or ???), comes across a little differently as well, more goal-directed -- heck, they're ALL more goal-directed now, and that was the point of reworking the story!