Why haven't you posted anything in nearly two months, I've been asked. This is a space for keeping people up to speed on what you're doing, after all. Well, here's a little glimpse into where I've been hiding this winter.
I don't know what came over me.
Just after Christmas - December 29th, according to my notes - I scribbled down the first inklings of a story idea that came to me. I had been, I should point out, in the process of outlining a novel at that time, and had been for a month or so. That's sort of how I work: I get an idea, let it germinate for a while, then start taking notes to see if it makes sense to carry on with it or not. This idea made me scrap the other novel and focus entirely on the new one.
I did this for about a month. I'd add notes or the outlines of some key scenes. I started seeing some of the characters in my head, and I gave them names. I saw my setting - a dusty little town named High Water, Texas and the bleak surrounding landscape. Everything was falling into place nicely, to the point where I decided it was time to compile everything and see what I had so far. My better half transcribed all my hand-written scrawls and hieroglyphics into word documents, saving me countless agonizing days' worth of work.
The results were, to say the least, disheartening. My month of plotting and scheming had amounted to 7,700 words, about the length of some of my longer short stories. It felt like an awful lot of effort for that little to show for it. But I couldn't stop; I was too immersed in this story, and now it was time to go to work. It was January 29th, a month later to the day.
I rarely write on the weekends, since those days are reserved for doing stuff with friends or watching movies or just hanging out with Sheryl and the animal kingdom that lives here with us. That adds up to 29 actual writing days from then until today.
Today is March 9, not quite a month and a half later. I'm to the point where I take all of my individual chapter documents and paste them into one large manuscript. Today's word count? 45, 413 words. Take away the 7,700 from the kick-off point and we have an average of 1,300 words a day.
For some, that's not a huge amount. For some others, it's many times more than their normal daily average. There are no right or wrong approaches, but suffice it to say I normally fall into the latter category. My first novel, The Shadow Realm, took roughly 13 months to write, and another three to edit. This time, I've got roughly two thirds of the first draft done in a month and a half. It's hard to say exactly how long a novel will end up being, but I'm basing this estimate on how the story is unfolding and how much I think I have left to tell.
Stephen King famously once said "I believe the first draft of a book - even a long one - should take no longer than three months, the length of a season." I would read that quote and chuckle to myself. Yeah right, I'd say. But my approach to this novel is a lot different from the first one, which I guess in hindsight I could call a learning experience. While I'm proud of that one, I was thoroughly sick and tired of every aspect of it by the time I'd finished it. Well over a year into the process I just wanted to be done with it.
This time around I'm less preoccupied with polish and perfection, and more interested in getting the story out. There will be ample time later to fix and patch the holes, and buff out the rough spots. This time around, I think I understand far better what I need to do in order to churn out a quality piece. And at the risk of being immodest, this novel is a killer. I'll drop some hints and teasers in this space as the process winds down and we approach completion. For now, it's back to the grindstone.
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