Rethinking the Roadmap

d3/108,382 words

Interacting with users over on FWO has made a fantastic difference, and I feel truly fortunate that so many people are willing to spend their free time sorting through my writing (Milena & Ailian in particular!). To put it simply, they are unearthing tons of things that need to be addressed. Some is stuff I worried about myself, and they have confirmed with resounding unanimity. Others are things that I totally missed, but upon reflection, are definitely real issues.

I’ve basically gotten through chapter 6 with everyone I am working with, and there are enough structural changes (mostly to the characters) that my old roadmap for revisions is out the window. I am starting over now on what I am calling draft 3, and it will incorporate my own notes and the feedback from the beta readers.

Getting this kind of feedback has been an interesting experience. I go through moods, first feeling like this whole thing is FUBAR and I should just start something new, but then feeling like I can fix it. I am a little discouraged by how far off I was on many things, but then again, this is my first writing project. What could I expect? The key here is to learn everything I can, apply it to the later chapters on my own, and hopefully get better at this whole game as I go. Processing feedback seems to kick off a few days of writers block, but when I come out of it, I feel good about where to go.

Another bit of feedback I’ve gotten is that some of my settings lack enough description. I am really kicking myself, because all of the examples highlighted are places where I vigorously cut descriptions in my attempt to lower my word count. It would seem I went overboard, and took too much away. Given the new course, I am once again not focusing on word count. I want to get this right first, then I can worry about that. I am going to add back in stuff that I liked or wanted, as there is no need to be that parsimonious with my words just yet.

The biggest projects for the next couple weeks are as follows: 1) Re-invent Nick’s POV so he can be sympathetic, and the reader understands what he actually wants and thinks. 2) Make some decisions about Evaya’s Sensing ability. As attempted in chapter 2, it is just way too powerful to not play a larger role in the plot. I need to adjust this. 3) There are a few key chapters that readers are finding contrived. I worried about this, and my fears are now confirmed. I need to rethink this, as well as some chapters they haven’t seen yet (*ahem* 20 and 26), and make it work.

This is definitely a setback time-wise, but the chance to really propel forward with a more compelling and engaging story, so in the end it is a win.

Workshopping for the Win

d2/110,646 words

I’ve continued to work with Skylark over at FWO, and had a few bits of feedback from other users as well. Although it is a little unsettling being told about all these issues, I do have to say I feel way better about the story after incorporating feedback. There really is nothing like an blunt, objective, outside review.

I have 9 chapters edited to draft 2 (and a few incorporating beta feedback), and I’m feeling good. I seem to be able to clean the draft at 2-3 chapters per week, which means I am looking at about 12 weeks to get this thing in the bag. One thing to note is that the cleaning process is also including a heavy polish and word-cut round, so it is really hitting d3, and d4 all at once. We’ll see if I can skip over those as separate iterations when the time comes, but it seems possible at the moment.

Last thing of note, is I’ve managed to cut about 3K words over 9 chapters. I know of a few places I need to expand things, but on the whole I think I can hit 300 words cut per chapter… which should bring me to just about 100K words total. Hopefully that is a good place to sit for a fiction debut.

Trudging Along

d2/[4 of 40] 112,229 words

I have completed revisions on the first 4 Nick chapters. I feel good about this so far, but it is hard to do all this cutting and tweaking. It seems like things constantly come up I want to check or revise. I’ll do two more Nick chapters next so that I stay with his sequence and follow his arc, then I’ll go start Evaya and catch her up to where the meet. My new length goal is 100K words, which means a lot more cutting… about 10% chapter by chapter.

In my notes for the chapter changes, I also mapped out where they all should be in their arcs, and noted if I need a scene to emphasize this. I’ll incorporate all this during my pass through the text.

I connected with Skylark over on a fantasy writing forum and we have started workshopping each other’s novels. She has an interesting story that I am enjoying critiquing. She has also provided me some critical outside-reader feedback that I never anticipated. Two things in particular he said was that the secrecy of Spawn operations in the Citadel is unclear… and she is 100% right. The answer is that Spawns should be public figures for military/state uses, but totally clandestine for his ‘personal projects’. However, I was not expressing this in the chapters at all. The other thing is that she thinks I have overemphasized Nick’s guilt, and that as a reader, she can sympathize with how he must be feeling. Also a very useful point. I might be trying to hard to shove the sensations down the reader’s throat, instead of trusting to the picture I am painting to invoke the feelings naturally. It is hard to share stuff with other people, but there is no denying the feedback is crucial to improving the story. Thanks Skylark!

On that front, nothing from Mark Lawrence on his site. Didn’t expect anything, but I would have loved the chance. Ah well.

Draft 1 Done!!!

Holy shit.

d1/113,156 words

No seriously, holy shit. I feel like I just finished a marathon, then collapsed into a pool filled with bricks.

Draft 1 is DONE. It weighs in at 112,381 words (part 1 = 37,580, part 2 = 42,842, part 3 = 31,782). This divides between the point of view characters with Nick getting 59,058 (part 1 = 20,872, part 2 = 20,158, and part 3 = 18,028), and with Evaya getting 53,146 words (part 1 = 16,708, part 2 = 22,684, part 3 = 13,754).

I have a LOT of work and changes to do, but I am pretty pumped about it. I am genuinely excited, because I feel like some of this I should have done from the beginning (if I had known), and once I do it, things will be much tighter.

On another note, I sent a sample to Mark Lawrence to critique. WTF right? So I grabbed his book Price of Thorns on Audible a couple weeks ago, and just started getting into it. I found his blog from there, and it had a number of articles useful to an aspiring writer. Then I found one in particular where he actually was offering/challenging people to send in the first 500 words of their story, and he would give it a real line-by-line review. This is totally kick-ass, and I’m only about 2 weeks out from when he posted that. Anyway, I wrote him a sort of stupid email and sent in my sample. It is unlikely I’ll ever hear back, but hey it was worth a shot!

Anyway… draft 2 starts tomorrow… here we go!

I got a Drone, and it is sick.

I got a drone.  They have an API, so I’ll do a little experimenting for potential iPhone apps and… BOOM!  Business write-off!  This thing is so ridiculously epic and nerdy, I hardly have words. It is the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, and it is really something else. Built in GPS allows it to remember where it took off and land itself if you lose signal. Flight is smooth as anything, although it definitely takes some practice to figure out.


Falling Action and Denouement

d1/104,769 words

Once again, my n00b status was reinforced with alarming vigor. I have exactly 1 chapter left in my outline, the final conflict for Evaya’s POV. When I finish that chapter, I will be 29 chapters in, and my story will be fully written as outlined. I had figured I would need a chapter 30 just to close out the book, but I really didn’t know what should go there, and had not spared it too much consideration.

Turns out there are a terms for that final sequence, and they are crucial to ending the story in a satisfying way. They are the falling action, and denouement. I had never heard of either term until today, but after some reading, I see it is critical to execute them correctly or else readers will put down an otherwise decent book thinking, WTF.

I need to step back and give this some thought. There is nothing here I can’t work out, but the simple fact is my outline and considerations have all stopped at the climax. Seems foolish now, but I didn’t know any better. I need to map out this final chapter to make sure things land smoothly, and I satisfy the readers the way I wanted to.

Anyway, I have 2 chapters left in D1: the final Evaya conflict, and the denouement chapter. I am still on track for wrapping up before the end of the month, even with this added complication.

The Beginning of the End

d1/101,057 words

I have 2 climax chapters left! One for Nick, and one for Evaya, and then the story is done! I am so sickeningly close I can taste it… just two story lines to tie off in as many chapters, and I can actually put the seal on draft 1. After that I have a final epilogue/concluding chapter, but that will be short and easy to write. I’ll wrap up a subplot or two there, and call it a day.

The other thing is I am finding I need fewer words for these final chapters than I had expected. This is a good thing, because as I’ve gone through, I’ve realized that a few things need to be added to give the characters extra dimensions, as well as foreshadowing certain events properly, and building more in the subplots. I was afraid I would finish this draft at or above the 120K mark, but it looks like I’ll have several thousand characters to work with. Additionally, ending closer to 100K is probably for the better considering I am an unpublished author… 120K was really the upper limit for my genre, not the ideal target.

D1 Home Stretch

d1/94,882 words

Two weeks ago I was churning out words at a good clip — but things slowed down when I came around the corner and entered into the final couple chapters during which the climax unfolds. Part of the reason for the slowdown is that I didn’t really have these chapters mapped out. I mean, I knew what needed to happen, and generally how (having figured that out about 2 weeks ago), but there were still a lot of question in my mind of exactly who would be where, what they would do, and how that would tie off the various subplots and loose ends. I now have all that mapped in detail, and I like it. I think this fully clears the way for the home stretch and the stamp of completion on draft 1. Hopefully another week of hard work and I can cross that mile marker.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading and worrying about draft 2, but at this point I have a very good handle on the story. It turns out it is easier to step back and review each of your arcs once you have the ending really in place. Perhaps this is why they say to write it fully through once before trying to worry about all the cleanup. In any case, now that I really know how everything will end, and where the characters will be, it doesn’t seem as daunting to go back and clean up the arcs and properly pace the progress. It is also much clearer now what things need to be foreshadowed, and what side/secondary material I should cut verse work in better. I am pretty excited to start on that analysis, but I need to put it off until these last chapters are penned out.

I am pretty amped up to get this finished, but alas I am exhausted today, so I won’t be able to make any progress. Hopefully later this week I can find some long hours to chip away at the missing prose.

As a final thought, I previously posted a brief comment about the process of Workshopping. Unfortunately, I do not have a writers group or many friends that write actively. I reached out to a long time friend of mine who, in his past, did a lot of writing and holds a masters in creative writing to boot. He does not do as much writing now, and so even though he agreed to help me, it is a very one-sided exchange. That being the case, it is not something I am comfortable pushing 100K words through. Whatever feedback he comes up with I will take very seriously, but he is only reviewing the first few chapters and I plan to leave it at that.

I like to think of my self as unusually self-critical, and not too easily sidetracked by my own self interest or self investment. It is not possible to be perfectly objective or fresh when looking at your own work, but I am hoping that I can be pragmatic enough in my analysis that I can get it most of the way there without a proper beta-reader group.


d1/93,120 words

Workshopping is very hard. I just sent some draft-1 chapters to a friend for some workshopping, and I have to say it was worlds harder than I expected to put that out there for someone else to review. Not only because it feels like a violation to let someone see all this work from the past several months, but also because I know the manuscript is so raw in its current form. I hate showing unfinished work, but it is necessary I suppose.


d1/88,729 words”

I just wanted to post a little update, since I’ve covered a lot of ground in the last 10 days… 8K words to be specific. With the outline of part 3 in front of me, the action is pulling me through the writing at a good clip. I expect this to continue until the last 2 chapters, where I need to slow down and get creative again. Specifically, I know generally how and when the main antagonists are going to be defeated, but I do not know what the sequence needs to look like to make it satisfying. That will take some work.

Also, I went and made a few changes this week, that I intended to address in draft 2. My OCD got the best of me you might say. I went back and broke out my chapters so none were longer than 6K words. This brings my chapter length average to something like 3500, which is a good length. It forced me to abandon the strict alternating POV I was following before, but I really do not think that takes away from the story. In the cases of POVs I had to break up, there is more of a thriller-style hook at the end of the first part now, so it is okay to pull them forward to continue with the POV instead of making them wait through a possibly less interesting chapter to get there.

I also spent a little time doing some meta analysis, just to see how my word count was divided between POVs and parts, and I was a little surprised to see how well it was balanced out. Right now (with 6 chapters to go) Nick has 44,384 words in his POV chapters, and Evaya has 44,168 in hers. That is way closer than I expected. Part-by-part, I weigh in at about 37.5K, then 43K in part 2, which leaves me 39.K to conclude things (of which I have 8K written). I think with a little trimming in draft 2, I can get those to be nearly equal to make sure the 3-act pacing works.

I hope this rate continues, if so I’ll be done the draft in another week and a half. At that point I might be shopping around with my friends to see if I can get a workshop or writing group together, so that I can get a little early feedback to help me through the next steps of the revision process.