Okay so I didn’t mean to fall off the wagon, but sometimes things happen…
Number of Writing Weeks: 14 out of 22
Total Word Count: 9,288 words
Average Word Count Per Week: 422 words
% of Monthly Word Count Goal: between 33% – 168%
Other Stats: From 0.5 to 2 Writing Days per Week
So April through June were kind of lost months. Hardly any writing at all, and looking back I can’t exactly say why that happened. Life stuff, I guess. Those writing challenges, obviously, extended to my reporting on it here. Thus, here I am, playing catch-up and reporting on the past several months all in one go.
As it turns out, July and August were pretty healthy rebuilding months – I actually got quite a lot of writing done overall. The caveat being: I’ve started splitting my writing time between the novel and another project that has recaptured a lot of my creative energy after a few years of dormancy. That being a role-playing game design that I’ve been wrestling with on-and-off for well over a decade – in fact, much longer than I’ve been working on The Book of M.
In the not-extremely-distant future I hope to start sharing some thoughts on that RPG design effort: my goals for the design, a little retrospective on how it all started and how it’s evolved, and a little insight into my current thinking on it. But that’s for later. I’m not ready to spend a lot of time blogging my game design process just yet. Rather… let’s just ease back into reporting on my writing and the progress on my novel first before I get too ambitious with this blog.
Speaking of the progress on my novel: how about those numbers? 116,000+ words and counting. Not a short novel, and as the that progress bar on the main blog page indicates, I’m still only somewhere in the neighborhood of just shy of half-way. I continue to remain excited about the way things are going – even if the details of the events are a little more, umm, detailed than my original outline calls for.
Turns out, less than 70 words of plot outline can balloon into more than 14,000 words of actual fiction! And I’m not even all the way to the end of that bullet on my outline. In fact, this one outline bullet accounts for in the neighborhood of 70% of all my novel writing for the whole year-to-date. That’s impressive, I think, for seventy little words worth of outline. So what am I to make of an outline that’s over 13,000 words by itself?
Luckily, different parts of my outline vary a great deal in the level of detail. Some sections go into a lot of detail on what’s happening, and others, like the section I’m working on now, gloss over a series of significant events very quickly. So I don’t think this 200:1 ratio is meaningful in terms of the size of the book getting out of control. I still think that 250,000 words is a realistic upper-bound on the length of the book. And if I do go over that, I should probably be looking for ways to cut a lot when it comes time to edit.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First draft first, thank you very much. Editing… after I give the dust from finished draft some time to settle.
Looking forward, what’s my timeline for finishing this behemoth? Well, realistically I’ve been at this for years now, working in fits-and-starts as life demands and energy levels come and go. Right now I’m working with a goal of 24,000 words of writing for the year 2020 – of which I’ve now written over 20,000 to-date, with the vast majority of that in the novel. (I haven’t kept very good track of my writing on my RPG design project, as I’ve gone back and forth about whether to even count that as writing…) If I can maintain that pace, which – let’s be honest, is truly a snail’s pace in terms of writing – then I can look forward, finally, to a finished first draft sometime in 2026!
Putting it in black-and-white like that… makes me sad. That’s not how I always envisioned my writing life going. What’s worse, consider how long it takes to edit and revise and rewrite! I’d wage any well-established professional author will tell you that writing the first draft is less than half the work involved in bringing into fruition a publishable final draft. Finishing that first draft: that’s table stakes. That’s the first step of a marathon.
If you’d asked me ten years ago where I’d be in my writing career by 2020, I know I’d have said I’d be somewhere between “I’ve officially sold my first novel” to “I’m getting started on my second/third/fourth book under contract”. I’d never have predicted that I wouldn’t even be done with the first draft of my first book. But that’s reality.
It’s a reality that’s absolutely depressing. It’s a reality that whispers to me: you’ll never actually get a book published; you’re just too slow; you’re just not good enough.
I don’t want to wait until 2026 to see a finished first draft of Book of M. Maybe that’s what’s realistic. Maybe that’s what’s actually going to happen. But I need to set a more ambitious goal for myself. I need to believe I can do better at writing than I have heretofore. Though the world around us is on the doorsteps of the Apocalypse, on the very cusp of self-immolation, yet I still need to believe that I can do this. Whatever happens over the next few years, I’ve got to try to be the person – the author – I truly believe I was always meant to be.
Accordingly, I know I need to set – and keep – a far more ambitious goal for 2021 and beyond. For 2020: once I’ve officially met my goal of 24,000 words, which still looks achievable, I’ll start adding on personal stretch goals, 2,000 words at a time. But after this year, I need to ramp up dramatically. My 2021 goal is going to be double my 2020 goal. I aim to write over 48,000 words in 2021. If I can meet it in 2021, then my goal for 2022 will stretch even further, until I’ve got myself in such a pattern that I can reliably produce a completed novel draft in less than two years. If I’m ever going to break the barrier between me and professional publication, I have to prove to myself that I can do that. One completed novel every two years, and maybe I have a shot at becoming who I know I was meant to be. Maybe. That is, if the world doesn’t end in an abrupt and devastating cataclysm. (To which, well, I’m not holding my breath on that count, let me tell you. But that’s an entirely different topic of conversation, isn’t it?)
So there you have it. I am going to beat my 24,000 word goal this year. I’m doing it, and I won’t let myself off the hook for it. And I’m going to push that boundary farther and farther every chance I get, month-after-month, year-after-year, to prove myself worthy of the epithet of author, come what may. And when I cross that line: I hope it finds its audience, that maybe that audience is you, and that you’ll enjoy what I’ve created.
See you here again, next month.