Progress report

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The summer is moving by so quickly, I think I might have missed it. Temperatures have been hanging out in the low 60s and cracking into the mid-40s at night giving a very distinct late summer vibe. I mean, except for the 21 hours of daylight.

I’ve been doing a bit of work on my current project, and last week I even tore through a rewrite of a few chapters that I’d been putting off. These chapters are a distinct sub-plot with a different lead character (in cliché fantasy tradition). They make up something like 1/4th of the book.

As I was going through these particular chapters, I noticed two major things. The first is that they needed (probably still need) quite a bit of editorial massaging. The second is that these particular chapters are, even with final polishing necessary, arguably the best chapters of the book. On one hand this is cool. I’ve got a few chapters that generally work. Unless a beta reader notes a major problem, these are good to go until editing! On the other hand, this is ¼ of the book. That means the other 3/4s still need a tremendous amount of work to be up to scratch. I think I’m making major progress on that score, but it’s hard to tell until I sit down and attempt another full re-write.

One theory of why this sub-plot is working better is that I don’t really care about the characters as much, and so as things start going to hell for them, I really don’t mind and just sort of let it happen. My main characters (the heroes, if you will), however, I care too much about. As a writer I’m not effectively putting their backs against the wall (more clearly stated: The MC should have a simple goal ‘right now’, simple goal right now is being blocked by a clear and present antagonist). I can’t say that this is THE problem I’m working through, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. The characters aren’t being driven from place to place so much as they are going from place to place. It seems to me that this isn’t doing any favors on the overall conflict and rising action.

So then what am I going to do about that?

I’ve already started tackling some of the problem bits. The first four or five chapters actually weren’t awful as far as this is concerned. The eleventh chapter, however, is a different story. The night before last, I completely rewrote it. It took the immediate conflict in a different direction that still managed to land the main character in almost the right situation to start chapter 12. The change also did good things for the conflict in chapter 12, which becomes something of a pivotal chapter (it always has been, but it just doesn’t have that feel or flavor yet). In any case, chapter 11 feels vastly improved from what it was, but I won’t know how much better this strategy is until I get to the end and look at the story as a whole.

So, anyhow, that’s where I am. The wife is out on the town tonight, so I’ll probably get a full chapter re-write in and if I’m lucky, tomorrow will be mostly a writing day and I’ll see if I can hammer out a few more chapter rewrites.


Photo credit: Me (don’t judge)

 

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Milestone

I took the week off (most of the week – I have a budget meeting on Thursday) to work on finishing a first full draft. It was a fairly lofty goal given that I’m trying to squeeze in the rest of life during this period. I’m not sure I’ll quite hit the end of a full first draft by Sunday evening next week, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility either. Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far since Friday night:

  • Finished the third re-write of chapter 10, which is much better now.
  • Rewrote chapter 17 to fit changes in plot better (this was actually a pretty major rewrite)
  • Wrote chapter 18 – this rounds out a major sub-plot with a brother.
  • Started chapter 19 – I have 1000 words written as of right now.

All of the work I’ve completed above is not in what I would call a polished format, it’s very much draft. Chapter 17 still needs some major work, but I’m going to save it until I go back through the book again. The issues are largely related to character development and I want to try and address all of those problems in one or two passes. Chapter 18 is very short, and will probably need more detail, but it’s plenty good for a first draft, and chapter 10 still needs a considerable amount of polishing. My target, right now, is 21 chapters, meaning I’ve got to finish up 19, with two more to follow (this alone is likely to be 10K-12K words). I haven’t ruled out the possibility of inserting as much as a chapters worth of material earlier in the book to explore some character elements a bit more.

If you’ve read to this point, I suppose you’re wondering what the milestone was, after all I didn’t finish the book or anything. Well, the original target was 80K words. With the start of Chapter 19, I’ve hit that mark. Given the direction I want to go, and the additions I know I need to make, the new target is looking more like 90-100K words.

This weekend wasn’t a total loss after all – Progress Report

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Saturday was an early day, no doubt. I got into Anchorage about 7:15, collected a colleague, and headed for downtown. In spite of the time of year, it was pouring rain, and about 45F and blowing 30mph. The weather was much more like that of late spring or mid-fall than late winter. We crossed 4th Avenue on foot, sloshing through the slushy mess of a track the race volunteers had set for the mushers. The conference broke for lunch early as well, so we were able to bop the next block up and watch a few of the mushers go past. One of them was wearing shorts. It feels like I’ve seen that before, but this time it actually felt like it was appropriate attire.

Anyhow, I went to a friends house after and had a grand old time eating too much and playing the dirtiest game in the whole universe. It was good fun. Of course, this morning it was time to pay the piper. Much of the week’s housework was awaiting. No time to do it the day before. I cracked away on that until about 1, before finally getting a chance to sit down at my computer.

Turns out with the sun-room in a cleaner state, it was easier to concentrate. The whole point of this story is that in spite of an action-packed weekend, I managed to knock out the chapter I’ve been struggling with. It’s not great at the moment, but it is a draft, and that’s something. The most interesting thing about it is that it’s shorter than expected and is begging to be followed by another chapter. I had thought this would be it, but when I started getting into the dialogue, it took an unexpected twist. A completely logical and necessary twist, but also completely outside of the plan. Anyhow, I’m sitting at just about 75,000 words, and the anticipated end-length for the draft is now sitting between 85K and 90K words.