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Writing Progress: Week Ending June 23, 2012

June 25, 2012

They call me the come-back kid:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 2,701 words

Grand Total: 2,701 words

I met my goal and with plenty to spare!  Yeah!  Although, this comes with a very significant caveat: I expect this to be the last fully on-goal week, wordcount-wise, for the next three or four weeks.  The present week might get close.  Next week I fully expect to wrap up with 0 words or close thereto.  The two weeks after that will depend on how things with Phase III of our Home Project go, but regardless the Home Project is going to absorb a lot of time starting in about two weeks.

Anyway, for today, I have cause to be proud.

I wrapped up this past week by wrapping up the fifth chapter of the book and starting on the sixth.  I’m also waffling, now, about whether I want Chapter 6 to be the last chapter of “Part I” of the book, or the first chapter of “Part II”.  I haven’t decided, yet, where I want it on the dividing line.  But the line is in there.  I expect there to be 5 to 7 “parts” in the book, overall.

The parts won’t all be the same size, I think.  Some will be longer than others.  Regardless of where I draw the line between “Part I” and “Part II” I expect Part II to be shorter – probably the shortest “Part” in the book, actually.  “Part I” introduces the protagonist and her world.  “Part II” is more transitional: it takes the Protagonist out of her old world and pulls her into a new one.  Once she’s fully introduced to her new world, “Part II” ends.

At this point, though, I do feel confident that the target measure for the novel’s length is a little on the short side compared to where I think I’ll actually come in at.  I’d been using 125,000 words in the progress bar here on the site.  But I’m a little more sure now that 175,000 words is a more realistic target, and I think that’s actually about the right length for this particular story, too.  So whereas last week the progress bar had me at almost 14% complete, the progress bar took a little step back to 11.5%.  I’ll be using the 175,000-word target going forward.  (Unless something pops up to make me think that’s not the right length.)

One thing that’s been interesting so far in this has been the question of Chapter and Part names.  I’m writing this on a scene-by-scene basis, and I’m naming each scene as I go, but I’ve given the scenes purely descriptive names: they tell what’s going to happen in the scene, or who it focuses on.  As I write, I’ve kept track of which scenes belong to which chapters and parts.  But I’ve been less worried about the chapter names.  Which has been great, because I’ve allowed my mind to dwell on different possible names on a post hoc basis.  At this point, Part I and chapters 1 through 5 all have names that I think really work.  I have a name for Part II as well, but no name for Chapter 6.  And I’m okay with writing Chapter 6 without a name, because the three scenes that so far comprise Chapter 6 each have names (each is named for the viewpoint character of that scene).  A dozen years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this: I’d be stuck on Chapter 6 until I had a name for it.

Another thing about getting this far, and passing the 20,000-word threshold: I’m getting that “I hope readers like it” anxiety, and I’m really anxious to get a first opinion.  This is paired with the “I don’t want to get a reader opinion until I have written enough for that opinion to mean something” anxiety, and the lesser-twin “What if someone read this and really liked it, and wanted more, but I don’t have more yet to give?” fear.  So, yeah, lots of reader-related anxieties going around.  I’ll just have to work through this, of course.  So far not even Dear Wife has read anything of this, yet (although she has the option, at her discretion, of reading what I’ve read at any time of her choosing).  And I haven’t decided yet how to resolve the tension between these competing anxieties.

Anyway, that’s how writing has been for me.  How was your week?

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2012 1:18 pm

    Good work! I’ve always taken very seriously Stephen King’s advice in On Writing, and I think he is right: give yourself the libery of never, ever, ever showing your uncompleted first draft to anybody, not even your wife. You need to write without caring about what other people will think. You need to be absolutely free of second thoughts and to let flow the creative juice without restraint and for that, you can’t have anybody’s opinion yet. Any disappointment on the way will just hinder you. You must write with total abandon. Now, once the first draft is completed and revised, there comes your responsibility of showing it to other people. But never before that point. That’s how King works and I always thought this was great advice.

    • June 26, 2012 1:18 pm

      Well, I can’t say I disagree with that advice in any significant way, except that I’d be hard-pressed to hold anything back from Dear Wife. Dear Wife and I are partners and what we do affects each other. I want and need her support for my writing habit, and as part of that arrangement I let her read everything I write. And I don’t have enough of an auteur sensibility to think that it’s necessarily a bad thing for my writing process to be influenced by some outside opinion. Still… I do have just enough of that auteur sensibility to think that I need to keep that outside opinion minimized or controlled in specific ways. As you say, I don’t want negative reactions or criticism to derail my writing process entirely.

      • June 26, 2012 6:41 pm

        I think the point is only about timing, not refusing outside opinion altogether. If my significant other were writing a book, I’d accept not looking at her first draft in exchange for unbounded and merciless criticism afterwards. I think this was King’s deal as well (he wrote his wife was his harshest critic). I’d negotiate this for myself too, but then again, I’m not in writing mode right now… heh… we’ll see.

      • June 27, 2012 8:59 am

        Well, yes, I gathered that the idea was just waiting to share until the draft was finished. But in the case of me and my Wife, she’d be waiting for years if I made her wait until it’s finished (based on my current rate of writing).

  2. June 25, 2012 7:38 pm

    Ah, chapter naming. What I’ve found works best for me (when I feel the work in question necessitates chapter names at all, that is) is to come up with a quick place-holder name when I start the chapter, then look back at chapter’s end and see if the name still works, or if what I’ve written offers better options. That way, I’m neither stuck at the beginning until I’ve found “the perfect name”, nor trying to write a chapter while squirming with discomfort due to the big blank where a name ought to be.
    Congrats on this week’s progress! Revel in your triumph!

    • June 26, 2012 1:23 pm

      That’s sort of what I’m doing here. The scene names are just placeholders: they won’t be in the finished work, at least not directly. Occassionally a scene name may be promoted or elevated to a higher status. That’s already happened once so far: the scene name for the first scene of the third chapter was so strongly evocative that I decided to use it as the name for the entire “Part I” (covering either chapters 1 – 5 or 1 – 6). Before that, I hadn’t even thought of naming the parts: they were just going to be “Part I” and “Part II”, etc. Of course, once “Part I” usurped that scene name, I had to rename the scene with something less evocative and more descriptive. (I couldn’t have the scene and the Part share the same name, even if the scene name is just an in-process identifier.)

  3. June 26, 2012 8:04 am

    First off, congratulations on the good week!

    The naming thing has a special application in writing serials, because you have to give a name to the whole work before you write it. That’s actually one of the hardest parts of the whole process.

    Sometimes, if you have parts and chapters, it works well to have names for one but not the other (for example, have chapter names but just “Part II” or whatever). It can help cement the different outline levels (as it were) in the reader’s mind. Just a thought. Or you can have phrases for chapter titles, but single words for part names. In U-town, my second novel, the chapter titles are words and phrases, but the three parts are subliminal (indicated by the layout of the TOC, and by the story itself, but not made explicit anywhere). Here’s the TOC: http://www.u-town.com/text/utown/. The uneven columns aren’t sloppy design; they’re the parts. If somebody doesn’t get that, it’s no problem.

    Me, I had a good week. I fInished my story: http://u-town.com/collins/?p=3369 :-)

    • June 26, 2012 1:37 pm

      Yeah, there are all sorts of mechanisms and naming conventions. Some books I’ve read had no chapter titles at all – and even then you have choices: are the chapters each called “Chapter #” or just the number itself? Is the “#” spelled out or written as a number? Other stories have simple chapter titles: short words or phrases. Others use longer phrases. I remember the “Dragonlance” books (a favorite when I was in Middle School) used three very short sentences as the titles of the chapters. My typical process is to use named chapters, with short phrases, which is what I been using in this book. I’d waffled back and forth on whether to name the “Parts” (originally I was going to, and then I wasn’t when I saw that my tentative Part names were uninspired, then a bit of naming serendipity happened and I am again). I dont’ always do Parts in a book, either.

    • June 26, 2012 1:38 pm

      Also, congrats on finishing Stevie One.

  4. June 26, 2012 11:30 am

    well done on a good week. Personally, I dont even think of chapter names, much less parts or which chapters will be in where until I have a first draft(ish) length of writing. Come to think of it, I don’t even decide where the chapters start and finish either; I just have a collection of scenes that hopefully conform to the loose plan. I find it really fascinating how each of us approaches the problem though.

  5. June 26, 2012 12:19 pm

    Great week! I also don’t think about chapter names until the first draft is done. It’s fun to go back and see what I’ve really written and what matches up to it. Dance season is now over, so once I stop aching all over I’ll get back to the writing ;) Thanks for posting your progress, whether or not you’re happy with it. It reminds me what I could be doing on the days when I feel a lack of motivation.

    • June 26, 2012 1:44 pm

      Hurray, and have fun getting back in the writer’s seat! And of course I’m only too happy to keep posting my own progress: and even and perhaps especially on the weeks that don’t turn out so hot. If I backed off because I hadn’t risen to my own standards, I wouldn’t be painting an accurate picture of myself: and I owe myself some honesty.

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