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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Second Progress Report on the Novel: Life Gets in the Way

Hmm. Turns out I was a bit ambitious in the last post talking about this - instead of maintaining the average daily word count between 500-1,000 words, in May I dropped off a bit and stuck mainly around 500 words whenever I sat down to write. I also didn't replicate the 3-week streak I managed last month, although I did manage an 11-day streak, so I won't complain too much.

The more frustrating thing is that the story is starting to wind down toward the end, but I'm still barely halfway to the word count I'd set myself. This is less banal than it seems, since a lot of publishers have rather strict limits at around 80-90 thousand words, and I don't want to have to (eventually) shop around a novella - because does anybody even publish those anymore?

I have some thoughts for expanding the story, of course - certain characters that I've introduced who could have their roles fleshed out a bit more (I don't dare cut them at this point), and I might be able to add some more descriptions of people and places. If I do that, I'll have to make sure I don't waffle on too much, and that I do heed Elmore Leonard's advice to not write the boring parts that everybody skips over.

As far as why the word counts went down and the streaks got shorter, I'm trying to figure out what happened. Surely some of my other life stuff interfered, as there were a few nights that I was up in San Francisco for work or for fun, and my birthday was this month, too.

I also suspect that intensity is easy to maintain at the start of a long project, when you're excited about it, and at the end, when you're finally tying everything together again. Or to put it another way, I don't know if I like the second act as much as the first or third.

This doesn't refer specifically to my own work, by the way. I find that the start of a novel, movie or TV show always seems to grab me more, and then in Act 2 things settle down a bit until the end. I'm curious if this is down to attention spans, or the particular work I'm reading at the time. I know that in my case, there are some good set pieces in Act 2, but a lot of the other stuff has been glossed over quicker than I expected when I outlined the story; and there's also quite a lot of new stuff that wasn't in the outline (not that this is a problem, because I enjoyed writing it).

It's maybe a bit sad, but I think I'm going to have to refer back to Save the Cat to flesh stuff out. I do know of a couple of authors back in London who use it to make sure their stories are flowing well enough, so there is some applicability to novel-writing. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine George RR Martin needing to refer to Save the Cat for his own books.

Of course, he had to start somewhere, too...

Anyway, on to Month 3 and the end of the story. And I shouldn't stress too much anyway - this is the first/rough draft, so I won't have to worry about too much other stuff until I start on the revisions.

Just need to ignore Stephen King's advice that the second draft should always be 10% shorter than the first...