Write-a-Thon, Week 2 Report

Clarion West LogoSo: Week 2 of the Write-a-thon is over. (For me, since I’m doing my writing on a week that runs Monday-Sunday, that is.) Here’s my weekly update!

If you don’t know what this Write-a-thon is, and want to know more, see here. (I’m still looking for sponsors, and if you’d like, it’s easy. More info at the link.)

The short version? Well, this was a challenging week–I was sick enough that for two days, I was unable to sit at the computer and write productively, for I was sneezing my own brains apart–but nonetheless I managed to keep to my writing pledge: slightly more than 12,000 words added to the main manuscript, plus about a thousand words of planning, character-sketching, and more.

More specifically, for those interested: I performed major surgery on the outline, improving the manuscript in a way that… well, I’m kicking myself for not seeing this solution to the problem previously. Basically, it helps fix not only structural problems, but more philosophical problems with the story. (I had a group of characters who aren’t [exactly] villains, but who look like villains to another character; that other character’s conscious was hogging the narrative mic, and his [mostly] misperception wasn’t addressed until very late in the story. That’s fixed now, neatly sorting out several problems all at once while enriching the story significantly.)

I don’t know exactly what my wordcount is, at the moment. The fact that I wrote a treatment of the plot, and that a lot of the “treatment” remains in the text of the manuscript, plus the rearrangement I’ve just mentioned, makes it hard for me to be certain just how much text the main manuscript actually has. My software claims it’s 67,000–two-thirds of a novel–but that’s definitely wrong, because my original treatment text was approximately 15,000 words long. I can’t just subtract the 15,000 words, though, because I cut the treatment text of each scene after drafting the actual manuscript-text for the scene.

Still, I am guessing (based on the fact I started with 28,000 words, and have drafted another 24,000 in the last two weeks) that about I’m probably at about 52,000 words, or, right at the halfway point, in terms of total first-draft content. The distribution is not simple, though: I’d say 65% or more of the first half is drafted, and only 35% (or less) of the second half is. But in terms of total verbiage, I’m about halfway there. If the book needs more than 100,000 words–the optimal length for a book you want to sell to a publisher these days, or so they say–I’ll write more, and deal with the consequences, but I think it’ll come pretty close. We’ll see. I’m hoping I can increase my output slightly this week… which should be possible, since I managed 12,000 words even losing two days to illness.

(Oh, and I haven’t done any other creative writing on the side, since I’m gearing up for a job search–and spent a whole evening updating my C.V. and contacting people to ask for reference letters, and updating my submissions tracking. Now, if only I can convince myself to stay off Facebook…)


Either way, I’m over halfway on this novel draft. Which is nice.  Onward ho!

But first, sleep.

2 thoughts on “Write-a-Thon, Week 2 Report

  1. I didn’t see a link at the beginning of your post – the “see here” wasn’t hyperlinked.

    I’ve been attempting to write a novel -in a far more amateur way, mostly as part of Nanowrimo. The point drilled into my head there, and at other sites and such, is to write without editing.
    In a recent podcast -between the covers – Jo Walton described herself as an author who doesn’t do drafts.
    In a post here years ago, you went over your working style which seemed to include a lot of edits and appeared a very professional way to write.
    Don’t stop the novel writing but when you have a chance, where do you see yourself in that sort of continuum? This post suggests you are editing on the fly.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks, I’ll try add a link after I post this comment.

      Writing without editing: well, NaNoWriMo is more about producing X number of words period… sort of a way of proving to yourself you can write a novel, as much as anything, I think. (That’s not to denigrate it: everyone writes that kind of a novel at some point, I think.)

      I don’t know whether Jo Walton means that she doesn’t do multiple drafts of the whole book, or whether she doesn’t try and then retry, writing a given scene. I’d be surprised to hear anyone doesn’t do the latter at least occasionally! But there really isn’t a “more professional” way to write. Some people find outlining helps, some people find it just constricts them.

      For me, I’m actually still trying to find out how I write novels. I’m still learning the form, really… or, I suppose, learning to construct my version of the form. It’s… let’s see. Not counting a juvenile attempt to turn a D&D campaign into a book, this would be my sixth attempt. Previous attempts have varied: some very very planned, some were very spontaneous. Neither approach is really proof against collapse, though: overplanning stifles a text, and underplanning leaves you stuck sometimes.

      I had the experience of writing a very thorough treatment of film script last year, and was shocked at the result: it was very, very easy to turn my ~20 page treatment into a pretty decent 100+ page script. Like, very easy: I think it took five or six days of work. With this current novel project, I decided to try write a treatment, and did put together one (about 15,000 words long); but then I realized the structure wasn’t working, and went back to rethink it. I haven’t rewritten the treatment, but I think I may need to still do something vaguely like outlining the new structure just to make sure I understand how the pacing and plot arcs look now.)

      I can say that for shorter fiction, it varies from project to project. Some stories, I really need to think about and plot out and so on; one or two, I’ve spent years and years rewriting–once every couple of years, until I was satisfied with it–and other are pretty much done in a single draft, sometimes even in a single sitting. It just really, really depends. I have suspicions, but I’m not sure 100%, that some of it has to do with my general knowledge on the subject. The novel I’m drafting now is set in the 1700s, which is basically a foreign culture, with foreign technology and foreign language and all… and I want to get the history right. Somehow, I feel like historical fiction is just harder in that way: purely fantastical worlds, or worlds more immediately familiar (whether because the main preoccupations are familiar, like jazz music or homebrewing would be for me) are just easier to write because you don’t need to research as much. But then, you also have less to bounce off when you don’t have to research as much, too. I dunno.

      I may write something more detailed than that when the book’s finished, perhaps. We’ll see. :)

      I think most people who “don’t do drafts” usually spend more time along the way getting the text right. I tend to do that with short fiction, myself, though there are exceptions–stories I rewrite a dozen times till they finally bloody well work. (I have to do it less and less with short stories, maybe novels will end up being the same way, I don’t know.)

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