Writing Progress: Week Ending March 31, 2012

As last week, I’m running low on pithy opening lines:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 506 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 1,331words

Grand Total: 1,837 words

Near the beginning of the year, I’d set a goal of completing at least 2,000 words of first draft a week every week after finishing my outline, save for some number of weeks reserved for other projects.  This week I got close to doing 2,000 words total, but it’s now two weeks in a row that I have failed to cross that mark – and I don’t have any major real-world projects that would be eating up that time.

So, that’s disappointing.

But still, I made some decent progress on the second chapter of the book.  So far, both chapters are coming together pretty much as I envisioned them – though with the usual sorts of surprises that come to play.  For example, here in the second chapter, as I wrote I found that the captain of a warship wanted to give a typically schmaltzy pre-battle speech commending his troops and their cause.  I hadn’t planned this, and it’s a bit too detailed to have a remark in my outline notes.  But it felt right in the moment.  I found this was an excellent place to add in some references to the backstory of the fashion “We remember when they did ‘X’ {a bad thing}, and that is why we are very soon going to engage them in battle!” where “X” stands in for some relevant backstory.  I think it worked pretty well, but I’m still concerned that it’s too much (too much schmaltz, too much cliche, or too much backstory info-dump style).  Only readers can tell, I think.

I also did a bit of background notes this week – the first week that’s happened since I finished the outline.  I knew beforehand that my background notes were not complete, and that I would want to come back and fill them in as I wrote.  This week, that came up because in some of that backstory I dropped some references to the religions and mythologies of this world – but I had not codified very much about those religions or mythologies yet in my notes.  Considering that religion is one of the dominant themes of this story, that’s probably a significant oversight.  So I started jotting down a few things about the religions of the different people, just to get it down.  I’ve quite a bit more to do on that, though, so I expect to see a little more wordcount this week in the “background notes” category.  Still, my main focus is in pressing ahead on the actual first draft.

So that was my week.  How was yours?

15 thoughts on “Writing Progress: Week Ending March 31, 2012

  1. Ah, well, it’s been okay. Thanks for asking. My novel is coming along. I’m fine with my progress but as it is going through its umpteenth revision, it could go quicker. Good luck with finishing up that draft.

    • Thank you; and good luck with your revisions. I’ve been there before, though I don’t feel the same need to endlessly revise – at least not in quite the same way. It manifests differently for me. I’ll come back to something years later, after I’d long since established that something I’d written was pretty dang great ifidosaysomyself and discover on re-reading it that in fact it’s a stinky pile of moldy half-eaten cheese. At which point the “revise and rewrite” bug takes over. On my novel-that-I’ve-been-writing-since-forever, I decided the solution was to just let it rest for a good long time – no, not long enough yet, keep resting – and work on something else, something new for a while. There will be time to rewrite that behemoth again later.

  2. The info-dump issue is always a consideration (artistically if not commercially — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starts with 100 pages of pure info dump and that sold a few copies 🙂 ).

    I’m working on that with my current project, Stevie One. The first part has no info dump at all (no existing places or characters to explain). Then, there’s a bit of back story in the second part, to start to fill things out.I always try to figure out how much I’ve hooked the readers at every point, and therefore how much exposition they’ll sit still for.

    My week was pretty good. Part Three of my current project is up to 2,523 words, with 1,607 more pretty much ready to go. This is pretty much in line with my plan. I’ve just introduced the detective, and we’re heading to the crime itself.

    As I think I’ve talked about before, my biggest indecision is about one specific character — should I really get into her backstory or not? On one hand, she’s fairly peripheral to the plot. On the other, the story is developing a strong secondary theme that I didn’t expect, and her story fits right in with that.

    I expect my final decision will be to include her, probably mostly because she is one of my favorite characters. (Yes, in other words I will probably decide not to kill this particular darling. 🙂 )

    • Well, for me, I consider it both an artistic and a commercial problem. I’ll do the best I can for now… and then hopefully someday I’ll have first readers, alphas and betas, to help me iron out the problems. As for your backstory-heavy character… given the musing I’ve seen you do on the subject, I strongly suspect she’ll find a way into your story as well, backstory and all.

      • Well, she’s definitely kn, and I think I know how to handle the backstory. People who read Stevie One alone will get one level. People who have read A Sane Woman will be able to figure out more.

  3. The “schmaltzy pre-battle speech” or as I call it the “Braveheart moment”.Some writers have a knack for the motivational speeches, and I wouldn’t worry about the cheese factor until revisions 😉

    Last week was the last of my writing break. This week I’m back to it, so hopefully I’ll have updates soonish.

  4. Progress is slow, but steady. It feels like every time I turn around, I’ve got to introduce another character or three, and it takes more time than I’d like to figure out how to weave in descriptions and necessary information without slowing the plot to a crawl. Still, a chapter every day or two isn’t terrible (I have to keep reminding my spoiled-by-NaNo brain), and I’m hoping I’ll be able to squeeze in two chapters today.
    Hope your captain’s speech is a rousing one!

    • This isn’t iron-clad, of course, but one piece of advice I’ve seen bandied about is that you should be done introducing new major characters by between the one-third and halfway points. Like I said… it’s not iron-clad (there might be legitimate story-reasons to introduce new characters later), but I think it makes sense. Introducing important characters (who affect the plot) too late in the story can smack of Deus Ex Machina (or even Diabolus Ex Machina). Anyway… keep at it, and all that.

      • I would agree, in general, with the qualification that “introduced” does not always mean that the character actualy appears. Sometimes it can be effective to have a character described and discussed in advance of his or her appearance. For examples, both Kill Bill and The Front Page hold back a key character for a long time, though the charater is talked about a lot.

      • Yeah, I don’t normally have this abundance of character introduction, as my stories usually take place within a fairly brief space of time — a couple weeks, a few months, rarely more than a few years per book. This project, on the other hand, is spanning several years and on kind of a wide scale, and the MC’s path crosses and tangles up with a lot of people who touch the plot in some critical way.

        Now that I think of it, though, it kinda jives with your rule of thumb. This book is slated to be a good deal longer than any of my others, and the section I’m writing now, though it feels pretty far in, really isn’t within spitting distance of the halfway point. So maybe that’s part of what’s going on. I’ll look back when I reach the last mega-section of the story and make sure that all the necessary threads resolve themselves.

        Thanks for helping to put it in perspective!

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