RIP Spawn

Well, it is official.  After many weeks of considering the pros and cons, and breaking my way into my next project, I have finally decided the fate of Spawn.

I always knew going into this project that it would be primarily a learning experience, and maybe also something publishable.  I am busy revising the last 8 chapters from draft 1 to draft 2.5, and I have finally come to accept that I am fully comfortable with Spawn becoming a testament to my maiden voyage into writing, and never giving it to the light of day.  It is hard to explain how much the process taught me, but the truth is it is only one of many stories I want to tell, and not even a particularly well organized one.

I will continue my revisions to version 2.5 through the ending, and I will continue workshopping until chapter 32, then I am putting it on the shelf as a commemoration of the work that got me started.  Maybe, in a few months, I’ll come back and incorporate all the beta feedback, but most likely I’ll just let it die quietly, and steal any bits I liked for other works.

The primary factor in the decision has been my explosive excitement around the new project, the Lunhina Trilogy. Worldbuilding, character development, and outlining for this project went from 0% to 100% in a matter of days, and I have already planted the first 5700 bricks towards the project. I have no doubt alpha readers will bring me off cloud 9, but if I do say so myself, this is going fantastically compared to Spawn. It feels more alive, the characters feel more real, and the story is more organic.  I am not fully surprised by the different, considering how much I learned in the first round, but I am surprised by the momentum.  In a matter of days, I fell fully behind Lunhina and lost almost all interest in Spawn.  Some of that is just excitement at a new project, but it is deeper than that.  Spawn has served its purpose, and done so admirably, paving the way for a much better project.

Once I get all chapters to d2.5 and workshopped to 32 (of 41), I’m turning it in, and calling it a day.  Lunhina is a different kind of story. This one I would like to sell and publish… that is the point. Last time that would have been an added benefit, but the point was to learn. The stakes are higher now, and I’m aiming for the outfield.

Lunhina Tranist
Phase:Writing
Due:5 hours ago
5.7%

My Worse Rookie Mistakes

d3/111,018, 33/41

I am at an interesting point in my writing development, and one that merits some documentation.  I’ve mentioned before how my feelings about Spawn wax and wane, giving me days where I feel like I have a good story that just needs the right coaxing, and days I feel like I have a big pile of learning experiences that nobody else should ever have to read.

My new project

Today is one of the latter days.  I’ve finished revising draft 3 [a.k.a. 2.5] through chapter 33, which means I just have 8 chapters left.  I’ve received feedback from my writing group as far as chapter 26, and my pile of “to-do” changes for the final draft (d4) is quite large.  But that is not what is most discouraging.

A few weeks ago I was feeling a little blocked, and I started browsing my “cool ideas” document to get a sense of what my next project might be.  What is on the horizon for me, as I continue to explore this potential career as a writer?  A couple jumped out at once that I liked at the time, and that still resonate well. In the weeks since then, the ideas have started to codify into the beginnings of a new story, a new world, and some really engaging plots.  I am missing one or two sparks, I think, before I can really start looking at the different arcs and building an outline.

The rookie mistakes that might kill Spawn

The amount of excitement around my new project is quite intoxicating.  Not just because I enjoy the earlier stages more than the revision stages, but because I just have a better sense of how to build a story now, my confidence is much higher that I can do it well.  This is all in contrast to Spawn.

hair-pulling_3261885b

Spawn continues to be anchored by a number of really rudimentary and n00b problems.  I’ll write them out.

1. Role-casted Characters

I didn’t know my characters well enough before I set out on this project.  I have a document outlining their personality quirks and their attitudes, and yet I rarely follow it.  Why?  Because I can’t.  The characters were forced into roles that I needed for the plot, and the plot was strung together in advance without appealing to the characters.  I just expected them to play along, but they aren’t.  They will be much less interesting if I force them to, which leaves me with two bad options: a) force them into their planned role anyway, and they will be non-believable and single dimensional, or b) give them the life they deserve, but the plot breaks apart and suffers.

Could this be fixed in revision? Yeah, probably.  But I do have to ask myself if it is worth that much effort to save.  In my new project, I am being very careful to plot things out differently.  I am not designing everything around the specific sequence of events I want to tell, instead I am just planning out some major conflicts, and getting to know some characters.  I will let the two develop independently to an extent, and then create my scenes based on the characters themselves.

2. Worldbuilders Disease

I’ve also mentioned before how this novel is the great-grandchild of a big bunch or worldbuilding I did some six years ago with the intention of writing a screenplay and then a video game.  The key is, I had this extremely detailed world with specific properties, and then I build a plot that maneuvered around many of those specifics, to the point it can’t really be divorced from them.  I am again left with two bad options: a) Force-feed the readers with very heavy info chapters that fill in all these in-world specifics that explain the nuance difference between X and Y and explain Z, or b) Leave out these details and the plot seems to be full of holes and inconsistencies.  Not good.

Atlas_with_Wikified_Globe

Can this be fixed?  Again, yes I think so.  I would err towards option b, and then do some foreshadowing and dialogue to patch things up… but again, it feels like I am neutering the original creation past recognition.  That isn’t a bad thing in and of itself if the original creation was deeply buried gold that just needed sunlight to glint to its full potential… but that is not what this is.

In my new project, I am planning enough to be interesting, but hinging the plot on as few as possible.  The setting will impact the story because the characters live in that world — it is not necessary to tie each element of the world into the plot in order to showcase it.

3. Change for Change’s sake

All stories revolve around conflict and changes, and a story is the road characters take across those conflicts to reach those changes.  In my new story, I am beginning to lay out the plot around interesting conflicts.  For one character, I have a really great conflict that will hit at about the 90% mark of the story, and another at about the 20% mark.  I have one for the overall plot as well.  I need a bunch more, but the idea is, I am approaching the new story with the lens of “what conflicts do I want to see, and what events will lead up to those conflicts?”  My approach in Spawn was rather different.  I didn’t have any ending points established at all, and I only had a few conflict scenes.  I filled in the rest just to move things along, sometimes nearly randomly.

They are going from Silvius Center to Nerthia… I need something to happen… how about… Onadak Outpost?  That is how that scene got written.  I had no conflicts in mind, no character development in mind, I just needed something to happen.  I went back and shoehorned in some things, based on where I knew the characters were before and where they would be, but it was awkward and didn’t serve the purpose.

If I need Evaya to confront her past, I should set a scene that lets her do that.  Not try to squeeze it into dialogue while a scene that doesn’t matter at all is unfolding.

4. Poor Descriptions

This one might sound odd… surely descriptions and style can be changed in revision?  Well yes, sure, but this issue is a little deeper.  First of all, I wrote all of this without any idea about filtering or show vs tell, or any of that.  In my particular case, fixing the descriptions means a rewrite of 110K words.  But beyond that, issues from bullet 1, 2, and 3 are bleeding into the page, and in order to wrap a bandage around it, my prose is somewhat forced into the complex.  For example, my characters do not have well developed POV voices… which means I have to work extra hard to get things across that could be much easier.  My world has so many minor nuances that are plot-important, I have to dwell on them in inner monologue, or describe them as being noticed when they seem irrelevant.  This all weighs down the prose.  And in bullet 3, the sometimes artificial progress of my characters needs to be handled in narration because I did not create a scene to facilitate it, and that means more awkward thoughts or strangely fixated descriptions to try and pull things in a certain way for the character.  It all just feels like it has so much inertia.

So, what do I do?

Good question.  I don’t have the answer yet.  There are several main factors at play here.  First, I really am afraid that if I bail on Spawn now that the going is tough, it will set a precedent that stops me whenever a book isn’t going right.  When I’m thinking like that, I want to push through it just for the exercise.  Second, this has been well over a thousand hours of my life the last year, and there are parts of it that are very good and of which I am very proud. I would like to have more to show for it than just a learning exercise (which it certainly was on many levels no matter what).  Third, there are several other parts of this process (the publishing side) that I will not get to experiment with until I have something finished.  My new story is a year out at least, do I want to wait that long to have anything?

My overall plan at this point is, finish the draft-3 revisions, complete workshopping with my writers group through the ending, and then put the thing aside for a while.  I’ll get a first draft banged out on the new project in the meantime, then revisit Spawn with real distance and more experience, and decide where to go.

Working on Showing vs Telling

d3/111,465 words. 26/41 chapters revised to d2.5

I’ve spent some time studying the age-old show vs. tell problem, specifically through this book recommended to me by a fellow FWO’er.

I rewrote my first chapter making a dedicated effort to purge all cases of non-immediate inner monologues, as well as every case of telling an emotion or reaction, when I could just show it. The result feels a little flowery, to be honest, but it also feels much cleaner and easier to read.  I think a big part of the writing game that I have to get my head around, is that reading a book is not about being told a story.  Not really.  It is about having circumstances described to you, and allowing your own mind to create the story.  I can’t fixate on spoon-feeding the exact inner thoughts my MC is having in a particular situation, instead I just need to show what he sees, and if my characterization has been consistent, the reader will be able to get the same experience, but in a more enjoyable way.

This will be one of the major components of my draft 4 pass, and I am confident it will improve my writing dramatically.  On the negative side, it slows my word-count from nearly 1000 words per hour to about 100.  They may be better words, but that is still tough to swallow.

The changes are not always obvious.  Consider this line from D2.4:

D2.4  

He shuffled slightly to keep the swelling blood from touching his boots, and stared at the empty face before him.

His vision suddenly flecked with hot tears as guilt prickled across his face. He got back to his feet, blinking away the unwanted emotions. What good would they do him?

He flicked his blade, then removed a pink handkerchief from the fold of his blue trench coat and ran it along the cold metal, clearing the bits of matter that still clung to it. As he did, he urged his mind to go blank and the sting of shame softened. He was well practiced in bathing himself in a mental darkness, a meditative numbness, voided of self reflection and emotion. It was the only way to stay sane after all. Otherwise, utter despondence would surely claim him, as he was forced to commit all flavors of malevolence by his Pledge Binding.

In cases like this, the showing and telling are so intertwined, the whole thing needs to be rewritten.  I did so, emphasizing descriptions of actions and sights and sounds, rather than statements of what he was thinking or feeling. Here is the same section in D2.5:

D2.5

He shuffled slightly to keep the welling blood from touching his boots.

Vincent’s final expression was carved by terror, his mouth wide in a scream that had never touched the air. Nyklas’s stomach clenched unexpectedly, and looked away, but the man’s wide beseeching eyes continued to sting him. Guilt? Hells, where was that coming from?

He stood and flicked his blade, then removed a stained handkerchief from the fold of his trenchcoat and wiped the cold metal. There was nothing I could’ve done to stop this. I didn’t mark him to die. That was quite true, yet his stomach still twisted and an unease spread through his chest.

This whole situation was bullshit, from the depravity of his master to the Binding that enslaved him. Now he was killing random merchants in the slums of town… why, exactly? Did Golithias need nothing more than a perceived slight to toss his assassin into action?

The difference is, in my submission, fairly striking… but again, it required a full rewrite.  It is not a matter of deleting the word “sad” and replacing it with descriptions of sadness.  In many cases, whole sections need to be reworked to revolve around description and immediate experiences, rather than commentary.

Then there are times when I am telling, and I really don’t have the option of showing.  In those cases, I am tending to just remove the block.  I won’t follow this strictly throughout the book, but in chapter 1 if it requires telling, it can probably wait.

D2.4

Beyond the sea of rooftops nearly lost in darkness, the huge structure of the ship loomed. The facade of the aged spacecraft, two miles wide and half a thousand feet high, was like some kind of metallic god that watched over the entire city through a grey washed eye.

He spared the ship only a passing glance. Far from inspiring awe, the sight only summoned disgust. The ship was nothing more than a fortress. Half destroyed from the crash that seeded this planet, it stood only as a monument of segregation between the civilians and the sinister characters that played plutocracy over them. Such as his master.

The solution here was just to leave a lot of details out so I could show the things I needed to, use analogies to fill in the emotional connotations, and call it a day.

D2.5

Beyond the sea of rooftops the ship loomed tall, like the face of a fallen metallic god. The grey-washed surface caught the light with the sinister matte of an opaque and blind eye. Restraining a scowl, he looked away…

The last thing I addressed is not strictly related to showing and telling, but I group it together anyway: micro pacing. During intense scenes, it is important to control your prose by making sentences more concrete and shorter.  No similes or metaphors, just short, quick, action.  I looked at this during this pass because I can easily show something small and let the reader interpret the rest, without breaking out of the moment.  If I stop to tell the same thing, the action comes to a crawl. It seems counter-intuitive, and may not apply globally, but at least in the examples in this chapter, the showing felt natural and quick, whereas telling felt intellectual and contemplative, and thus slow. The escape scene suffers from telling instead of showing, of doing so during high-tension moments, and of telling in an info-dumpy sort of way:

D2.4

He turned and ran across the bedroom, but at the top of the stairs he stopped. There was a bang from below as the front door was kicked open. Angry voices sounded from within the house.

He grimaced, and looked around. The colors around him intensified as his heightened senses came alive. Power flooded from that core of energy that kept him alive — his Adonis Heart — making his muscles quiver. The sounds on the air were suddenly more vivid, and time seemed to stretch as he scanned his surroundings for options. At least a dozen men were downstairs. As a Spawn, he could probably fight his way through all of them, but that was beside the point. He didn’t want to kill more than he had to. He needed a plan, fast. There was a second bedroom on the back side of the house. He ran across the landing and kicked open the door, registering two windows within. The first overlooked the main street where a crowd was quickly becoming a mob, but the back window faced a narrow alley between this house and the masonry shop next door. In moments he was out the window, landing roughly on the tile roof across the alley. It was an inhumanly long jump, and he was sure they could not follow. Ignoring the stinging in his shins, he scanned his surroundings. Torch lights played off the building towards the main street, but the alley led to a small street behind the shop, which was empty. He rolled off the roof and landed in the narrow road backing the house.

Here is what I came up with for D2.5:

D2.5

He turned and ran across the bedroom, but at the top of the stairs he stopped. There was a bang from below as the front door was kicked open. Angry voices sounded from within the house. He grimaced, and looked around. The colors of the dark hallway intensified as his heightened senses came alive. His muscles quivered with ready strength. At least a dozen men were downstairs. As a Spawn, he could probably cut his way through all of them if it came to it. His master might not care either way, but he cared. He ran to the second bedroom at the back side of the house as heavy footsteps banged up the stairs. There were two windows. He opened the window above the narrow alley where he’d started. As voices and boots pounded into the bedroom, he gave himself to the wind, and landed roughly on the tile roof across the way. Shouts and whistling echoed from the front street. Shins stinging, he rolled off the roof landing on the hard stones of the alley a dozen feet below. Colors popped as his Spawn strength flared, dispelling the pain in his ankles and knees. He threw himself into a sprint down the alley towards the back street.

Anyway, this will all get one final pass, but I do think this revision brings it within 1 pass of being “done.”

Never Ending Tunnel, day 263

d3/109,013 words

Haven’t updated for a while, because I’ve been in the full swing of revisions. I can see why so many authors say they hate this phase. It lacks much of the energy and excitement of earlier phases, and is littered with second-guessing and frustrations. It also seems endless.

Nonetheless, I am continuing to leverage several relationships I have forged over at FWO (three in particular) who have committed a good chunk of their time to helping me through my story. It is turning into a quite effective beta read.

Okay, current progress: 25 chapters revised to d3, which at this point means, incorporating initial beta reader style feedback, a polish pass for filtering and other stylistic things like that, and completing my own continuity notes for the story. The read-back right now weighs in at 66,027. I have to add a missing chapter next, then I have to continue d3 for the remaining 14 chapters.

I have some detailed beta-feedback up through about chapter 10 (all three critters have given me info, as well as a lot more through 6). It is clear that I’ll need to sort through the feedback and make a lot of changes… many minor, but several major. Things like the technology/Adonis disparity between the Elevated and the non-Elevated is a driving subtextual issue that doesn’t get mentioned. That is a single example among many. Then stylistically, I still get a LOT of feedback that my writing is too heavy handed. Too many signposts, too much inner reflections. When I do the d4 revision, I’ll need to put a lot of effort into leaving out things I *want* there, or I *think* need to be there, and try to lead the reader there emotionally instead (and trust them to get there).

Timeline-wise, I am moving more slowly these days. It took me about a month to revise the last 12 chapters, at which rate I’m looking at another month to complete revisions on draft 3. Then I need to do some thinking. I have several cool ideas brewing for another story, and there is a certain argument for putting this aside to get creative distance and starting something new. However, I also want to finish this and officially wrap on my first novel. Not just for the learning experience, but to make sure I really do it. I am not sure which way that will go yet. Some revisions I can probably make immediately, but some may require distance… and I’ve only received beta feedback for the first third of the book, so who knows what else might come up.

In other news, I updated my map recently, and I like the new version a lot. This was changed to reflect the spacing from Nerthia to Silvius Center as being ~3 days on foot at a slow pace, and Nova Domu to Silvius as a single day on horse at speed. I need to tweak it again to make the river through the forest more realistic… I am told it should flow to the coast more immediately.

I am getting a lot more confidence as a writer, but I do have lows where I lose confidence in this particular piece of writing. I made a lot of decisions early on that are too difficult to write-out now, and so they complicate things in a way I feel could have been avoided up front. Things like the many specific and scientific details of how the Scar moves, which are important to the plot. If it were any one thing, I could foreshadow it, etc, but it is so many that it is just too much to tackle. The character issues are a little over-done as well. For my next story, I think I can tone it down a notch. All in all, I have moments where I wonder if this is strictly a learning experience. Right now I am feeling more positive about it. I think it is all fixable stuff, and I think there is a good story underneath, it just needs the right coaxing to get out.

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!

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.