Writing Progress: Week Ending March 17, 2012
In a fit of exuberance, I managed to put down quite a decent week in writing:
Book of M:
- Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
- First Draft Wordcount: 3,108 words
Grand Total: 3,108 words
So that’s a not-too-shabby start to the novel writing for this book. For those of you following along at home, that comes to just under 4,000 words so far.
I have a few observations, at this stage.
First, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve written in terms of scenes and chapters: I’ve been convinced by various posts on the craft and notes on how to use this or that writing software (even if I don’t use said software) that the relevant work unit, when considering a novel-length piece of fiction, is not the “chapter” but the “scene”. The former is something of a more fluid definition; varying in length according to the dramatic needs of various storytellers. And in the revision process, it can be useful to have the story broken up into scenes so the scenes can be reshuffled, repurposed, added, or discarded as the edit reveals the need – and all of these recombined in endless varieties to form chapters. That said, I’m finding the “scene” to be a tad arbitrary as well. What is the natural breaking point of a scene? I’m no sure that’s clear to me. Ostensibly, the breaking point is when a sequence of actions and events comes to a discrete end (a mini-climax, if you will), or to when a shift in character POV occurs. But it’s possible, by that strict definition, to have scenes go on an exceptionally long time, and themselves to vary in length dramatically.
My point? Depending on your point-of-view, all 3,700-ish words I’ve written so far are part of a single scene. I’ve arbitrarily broken the scene at decision point, calling everything before that decision-point Scene 1 and everything after Scene 2, but the whole piece is really one extended sequence of events that follows from an earlier decision that occurred prior to the start of the story. There are no time-shifts, no location shifts, no POV-shifts: just one event or action or decision following naturally from another. The whole novel isn’t this way. Just this opening scene, or pair of scenes. Regardless, in my mental accounting of things, both scenes together comprise the opening chapter of the book (although I haven’t finished the second of the two scenes).
My second observation regards length. Together, these two scenes come to just under 4,000 words… and I’m not done yet with this opening pair of scenes. This tracks closely to my experience in writing my first first novel (the shelved novel-I’ve-been-writing-since-forever “Project SOA #1”), in which a chapter trended towards a length of approximately 4,000 to 4,500 words in length. At this point, I’m not 100% sure where that puts me on tracking the overall length of this project, yet. I haven’t parsed through my outline notes, yet, to turn them into something functionally readable on a scene-by-scene basis or a chapter-by-chapter basis. A rough guess puts it at something between 50 and 80 scenes, or between 30 and 50 chapters. That puts my target wordcount for this project of 125,000 words on the low-end, length-wise, of what this might actually turn out to be… but still feasible. In reality, I suspect this thing will trend toward 200,000 words. But I don’t have enough information, yet, to base that information on nor to adjust my current working targets. So for now I’m still operating under the 125,000-word target, and I’ll update that in the future when I feel I have a better grasp of where this project is going to end up.
My final observation regards quality. I’m already going through the highs and lows of “OMG I’m totally writing this thing!” to “This sucks and I’m a terrible writer for writing it.” Naturally, I press on despite this rather negative outlook on the quality of what I done. At this point, I don’t know why I feel like it’s not quite good, how I might improve the quality of my prose. Perhaps it’s lacking simply because I’m not actually a very good writer yet. Or perhaps it’s because I hadn’t quite found my voice yet. Perhaps a simple wordcount reduction would suffice to tighten the prose and make it more engaging to the reader – say a 25% reduction in the total wordcount of the scene. Or perhaps a more significant structural and word-level overhaul is needed. Right now… I don’t think I’m in a position to say. My job, right now, is just to illuminate character and plot as best I can, and to keep doing it from the beginning to the end. So I’ll try to ignore that little voice telling me that what I’ve written is terrible.
Well, that’s where I’m at in my writing world today. How was your week?