Week #2 Overview

After two weeks of full-time writing, I am pleasantly surprised to still be pleasantly surprised. 

Once again, I can’t quite believe how the week has gone. It certainly hasn’t gone how I expected it to, for a number of reasons.

I had set myself the target of reaching 20,000 words by the end of the month. This week, I end with a current total of 20,144 words! Now I don’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the month. (Continue writing, obviously.)

Here’s the breakdown of my second week:

Week 2 Word Total Daily Words
12 Sep 2016 11,503 2,020
13 Sep 2016 13,885 2,382
14 Sep 2016 16,036 2,151
15 Sep 2016 18,657 2,621
16 Sep 2016 20,144 1,487
Overall Total Week’s Total
20,144 10,661

Late Thursday evening, I assisted Dad with a water problem at my grandparents’ house; in particular I assisted in the role of standing around looking gormless (and I nailed it!) which threw my schedule a bit out of kilter on Friday, making it a bit of a dud. I ended early on Friday, unconvinced by the day’s words, so tomorrow morning’s editing will be interesting…

This was just one of those things, however, and as frustrating as it was to end the week less positively than I’d hoped, I was glad it happened on a week that had gone so well. It would’ve been a lot worse to have struggled all week to then have the final day affected, especially if I was counting on that day to make the difference.

Fortunately, this week was a good week. A very good week. Not only did I produce a lot more words than I thought I would—though it’s not just about the word count, it’s also about the quality of the writing—, I felt by the end of Wednesday that I’d hit my stride. I was feeling more assured with my writing, especially the narrative, and was given a confidence boost by my characterisation.

This was particularly helped when I came to a scene with a minor character who I’d yet to plan properly. (Or at all. My only notes were: Esil, the farmer, 32). Instead of stopping to plan, I wrote the scene anyway. I made Esil up as I went along and allowed her voice, character and actions to appear in the writing.

Turns out, I now love Esil. She was such a fun character to write. So much so, I want her to appear more in the story than I’d originally intended. We’ll see how that goes later on.

And it will be later on because I’m still (yes, still) on chapter one. It’s now 14,000 words in length. That’s double my original estimate. And I still expect there to be another 3-5,000 words to go!

This has been a bit of a dilemma for me all week. If my first chapter (which is really my second; I also wrote the Prologue last week) is over double the length of my original estimate, it’s going to throw my total estimate of 240,000 words totally off target. It’s also going to completely muddy my expectations of the total amount of time I’ll need to complete a first draft.

Not good.

On average, you have between 300-370 words per printed page. 14,000 words on printed pages of 350 words per page would equal a total of 40 pages. That’s a bloody long chapter. Despite the book’s length, I want to keep it pacey. Stephen King managed this excellently with Under the Dome. Although it’s 877 pages thick, it blurs by.

When looking at George R.R. Martin’s Clash of Kings, I worked out that on average his chapters were at shortest 7 pages (2,450 words), on average 10 pages (3,500 words) and at most(ish) 14 pages (4,900 words).

Chapter one, currently unfinished at 14,000 words, is more than double  one of Martin’s longest chapters. Can I really maintain the pace at 40 pages?

Unlike Martin, whose chapters follow a single character, my narrative is framed more similarly to King’s Under the Dome, or IT or The Stand: instead of focusing on a single character, the chapter will be split between multiple characters, and the focus is on the location.

My decision for this is to have a less constricted narrative; to be able to get-to-know minor characters better and to have scenes outside of certain characters’ perspective. One BIG advantage I think the show Game of Thrones has over the Song of Ice and Fire books is the small scenes and conversations between minor characters that you simply don’t get in the books. (Remember Season 2 with the Hound and Bronn? So awesome!) I have also done this to make the characters appear more equal. If a character doesn’t have their own perspective chapter, then they may feel less important.

When I reminded myself that although I’m influenced by Martin my chapters may not be as short if they’re following multiple characters. As my first chapter introduces three important characters, it should theoretically have a word count of around 30 pages (10,500 words). This is still a long chapter but I always knew chapter one would be slightly longer than the average.

Not only that, I expect chapter one to have a lot of edits in the future. I’m already questioning moving some scenes and descriptions to later on in the book, or completely removing them. As tempting as it is to finish the first chapter and then edit it, I’ve decided to just keep on writing. The danger would be I could then edit all of the chapters after writing them, which would stall the whole writing process. I also feel I’d be in a better position to edit the first chapter once I know what the others are like, especially if I’ve picked segments out and re-homed them in later chapters. Not only that, I may find more of my chapters are longer than expected, so there’d be little point trying to trim the first chapter if all those that followed were of similar length.

Most of all, I am really eager to begin the other narratives. The more I amass, the more it will start to feel like a book. I hope to finish chapter one by Wednesday, if not Thursday, meaning I can move on and start another narrative come the end of the week. I will also set myself the new target of 35,000 words by the end of September.

Although I’m only two weeks in and it’s still early days, I ended each day this week feeling really assured that I was doing the right thing with my life. My writing left me feeling proud and accomplished. My previous job could be very rewarding as it was about pushing others. Now I am pushing myself. And it couldn’t feel better.

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