Ready to Roll… Finally!

d1/80,540 words

I’ve finally come up with an ending, and the arcs that take me through the third and final part of my novel! I am pretty happy with the outline I have, although I do have some serious concerns about the timing and pace of the book (arcs completing too soon or too late), but that can be addressed later. There is also a lot of traveling that happens in the book basically between scenes, so I need to make sure that will be smooth. The last concern I am harboring relates to the size of my chapters… I am seeing people recommend 3K-4K words per, but I average probably 7K. If I need to divide these up it will really mess with my alternating POVs. Off the top of my head I feel like chapter 1 could be divided, chapter 4-5 is a little bland, and then I could use another chapter or two at the very end.

In any case, my next sit down will be to lay out more words to keep this moving forward. I am glad to finally know where I am going, and excited to get through this draft and the next. From there, things get a little up in the air, but I have some time before I need to worry about that.

Brief is the Light

d1/80,900 words

I find myself in total shock upon reflecting on how brief 120K words really is. I always thought that was just a dramatic over-obsessed comment authors liked to spill to sound prolific, but it really is true. I am flabbergasted by the number of scenes, character arcs, backstory, and interactions that just won’t be showing up in this WIP because I’ve run out of words. This includes the extensive backstory of some 100 years before the events of the book, as well as relationships and defining context for various characters. Furthermore, even the story I am telling feels rushed and brief. For example, when Nick first travels with the Defiants, I expected some weeks to pass. During this time a great deal of self reflection occurs, and the characters get to know one another. I wanted to immerse the reader in this passage of time, make them feel it with the characters, the isolation and the self-reflection. I wanted them to have time to form the same relationships I describe in the characters, rather than simply being told it has happened. Yet, on the page, this gets under 2K words. WTF??

I would find it very depressing, but two things are keeping me from fixating on it. First, I can always post deleted scenes and backstory on my website, in the unlikely event that anyone is engaged enough to take interest. Second, I already know my next work will be much more of an epic, giving me the freedom to explore the fine details in much more depth. For now I just have to suck it up and go through the process, learning what I can along the road.

Milestone Complete!

d1/77,000 words

I finished part 2! This includes the cutting of the prologue and the interlude (hence the drop in word count). Things are spaced very well right now, with 37K words in part 1 and 40K words in part 2. This leaves me 43K words to conclude the novel, or else nearly that if I also introduce a chapter 1/prelude version of what was formerly Tuk’an’i’s POV in the prelude. Still deciding.

I continue to be concerned by some foundational elements that overlap too much with other works. I have managed to remove these elements from the main of the story, but there are some excellent endings that require me to alter these foundational elements in the conclusion in a way that brings those overlaps back into focus. It is a pity, but I am going to keep looking for alternatives that do not ignite this issue further.

Having read a good amount about second drafts, I have to say I am proceeding somewhat unashamedly through the manuscript. In many ways it is liberating to not worry so much about every detail on the first pass. With the knowledge that so much needs to be re-written on round 2, I can see that spending too much time on such things in the first round is not worth the effort. Far more important is expressing the ideas in whatever form the emerge, and making it to the ending. From there, the work of clarifying and cleaning comes in its own time.

Also of note, I am just past the 4 month anniversary of this venture. In the interest of actually completing this project and making something (however fleeting) of my writing career/hobby, I intend to finish part 3 in another month’s time. By the end of the year, I want draft 2 complete so I can begin to invite beta readers. That would put me in January/February when I’ll be reaching out to agents to see what (if anything) could come of this project.


d1/84,000 words

I think I need to cut the character Brett. Unfortunately, it looks like he doesn’t really add anything to the story. In the screenplay ancestor to the current WIP, he had a backstory and some interesting interconnections, as well as a basic arc, so I just assumed he was not an extra when I set out on this novel. That assumption hasn’t panned out, and as I am starting to appreciate the constraint imposed by 120K words, I do not think it is worth expanding his role. I had taken the basic cast for granted, so this is a jarring realization. It is also making me justify the presence of my other secondary characters, such as Revis and Kaylee. Possibly more combining of characters will be needed before this is through, but for now I think just Brett needs to go and the others will need more prominent roles in the action.

Along the same lines, I am 95% committed to cutting the prologue. This has been a very difficult decision — surprisingly so — but I am becoming much more comfortable with the idea. There are several different parts of the backstory that I consider crucial in that 1) they are very interesting, 2) they shine light on many of the circumstances unfolding at present, and 3) they outline some fascinating hints and clues which I think would entice a reader. Unfortunately, I am not convinced those reasons are good enough. The first-first draft actually had 3 prologues, two set 18 years before the story, and 1 set 2 years before the story. I settled on the current one (Brook Clearing disaster) because it represents the focal point in the political history that ultimately leads to the state of affairs where the story opens. I also drop some hints about the Erebossi and am given an opportunity to do a POV from one of them. This is not only an interesting added dimension, but it foreshadows their presence in the plot to come. It also drops the first hints about Evaya.

For the most part, these things can be shown elsewhere. In the case of the Erebossi POV, it doesn’t really add enough. If this were a series where I could have the POV recur a few times (as I originally intended), I would go for it, but to just do it once isn’t really helpful. Then as far as foreshadowing the Erebossi, they appear in chapter 6, which is not really that far into the story that I needed to reveal them up front. This isn’t Game of Thrones, where the white walkers are seen once, and then not again until the end of the book.

I just need to decide about the importance of the backdrop as it relates to the politics and the movement against the Elevated. If I find that to be critical, I will probably rewrite the prologue as a POV (uncredited) and call is chapter 1.

Same goes for the interlude… its gone. It adds details about the social instability pre-envelope (which can be worked in elsewhere), and then relates some interesting but inconsequential history about Evaya. Also Mangor or the Masters could reveal anything from this account I consider critical.

Retrofitting a Story into a World

d1/82,000 words

I am getting ready to start on the final act of my first draft. Unfortunately, I enterer into this project with a lot of excellent worldbuilding and sci-fi details, but very little plot. I also had some interesting character ‘events’, meaning some interesting coincidences and sparks in their backstory. What I was lacking was a clear understanding of the characters themselves, their arcs, and the story I wanted to tell in this freshly-built world. This is not the way I would ever write another story, but it is what it is and I certainly think I can retrofit the story in a satisfying way. However, it does make things more difficult.

The specific problem this approach has created is that I do not have a clear idea of my ending or my final conflict. I have a number of ideas I like, but ultimately the options are wide open, even though I am nearly ready to start laying words to those final chapters. The task ahead of me is to focus on the conflict, and flesh out the way it should unfold. Specifically, I need to find a way to make each character resolve their conflicts by leveraging their special abilities. For Nick, that means either his Spawn nature, his lack of memory, or his Mute Elevated nature. His primary nemesis is Golithias. For Evaya, that means her immunity to overdraw. Her primary nemesis is the Erebossi. So that is the name of the game for the next month: find the right sequence that makes sure each character’s key abilities enable their final victory.

Sympathetic Baddie

d1/80,000 words

As I am writing the conflict scene that closes out act 2 of my 3-act novel, my protagonists are coming face-to-face with the antagonists for the first time, which is giving me the opportunity to have the antagoist justify himself somewhat. I think it is important to do this for realism — make sure he remains believable. However, I am nervous about making the distinction between good and bad ambiguous by over-justifying the antagonist’s actions. It so happens that I had good reasons for him to act the way he is acting, and anyone else in his shoes could well be driven to the same things. I have made him extreme to be sure, but when the fate of the human species hangs in the balance, who wouldn’t go to extremes?

I need to spend some time thinking about the right way to balance this to make sure the villian does not become sympathetic. I have a few options: I could leave some of this motivation out, clouding him behind a generic ‘evil’ nature. That could work. The next option is to just dedicate a few more words after, either in inner dialogue or conversations, where the characters can pick apart what the antagoist said, so I have the opportunity to keep it cast in the right light. The last option is to bump up the extreme nature of the guy, taking him from cruel to evil. If I make him cross more ethical lines, it might clear things up even easier.

This will be a problem for draft 2.

Genre Conformity

d1/71,000 words

I had a little genre scare today. Since I am a new writer, I do spend a lot of time on blogs and podcasts getting advice, and considering things (some of them obvious) that had nonetheless never occurred to me. I was gathering some opinions about drafts and cutting characters, and I ran across one article where the blogger insisted that it was a bad idea to have two POVs / protagonists unless you are writing in the romance genre. I am not.

I see why he is saying that, but I am thinking the key is to make sure this approach works for the story I am telling. It will, except for one thing… do I need to make one of the protagonists primary? In other words, who is my story really about? I don’t have an answer for that because I have not cast the story into those terms before. In my mind, it is a story about their combined voyage. Maybe that is a good enough answer, but maybe not — does that mean I am too plot focused rather than character focused? I think my draft 2 rewrite will need to address this.