Perception vs Reality
I’ve had some low moments this past week (really, couple of weeks). The lowest came the other night as I sat in front of the computer having just finished up the eighth chapter of my current work in progress (WIP?). I’d hit the 10k word mark, which is great on the one hand, and terrible on the other. Eight chapters, only 10,000 words. Short chapters are fine (it’s a suspense novel, I’ve noticed lots of authors use short chapters in those). What isn’t good is that my outline only had 28 chapters listed out. At my current chapter average, I was going to top out at 35k words. That’s not a novel.
The good news was that my early chapters where things are getting set up were really short, while the later ones had been growing (averaging more 1500-1800 words each). I guessed I’d be hitting more like 55-60k words at that rate. Which is still too short.
So I did what any self-respecting novelist would do. I quit and went and read a book, went for a walk, and watched some soccer replays. In my brain I despaired. How could I waste the last couple weeks of effort? I’d pushed through writing with a hurt shoulder, I’d forced myself to do at least some words each day. I’d pulled 10k words out onto the page and the story was really starting to rev up.
That night was not my finest hour. I came this – – close to quitting the novel entirely and starting yet another something else.
Then yesterday morning I got up, watched a bunch of soccer, and in between matches I decided to look at my outline one more time. Were there places I could add things? Were there scenes that weren’t fleshed out enough? And I looked at each transition and told myself the thing I always tell myself: “Need more peril!”. Guess what? I found places that could use more peril. Shocking, I know. I found little areas between the described chapters where I’d let the pressure off the main character, I found places where I’d skipped journeys that had potential for danger, and meetings with people that could possibly go horribly wrong instead of smoothly right.
And I added ten chapters to my outline. I don’t know if I’ll make my goal of 80k words, but I think I’ll get a within striking distance. I’ve never had an outline be so much work before. Whew.
Which brings me to my perception vs reality. Even up to a year or two ago, I would have told anyone who asked me about it that I want to write epic fantasies (or as E.Bear calls them- fat fantasies with maps). I’ve always had this image of myself as a writer of giant novel books, thick tomes full of adventure and sweeping setting.
How many of these epics have I actually written? None. (No, I don’t count the 40 page ‘novel’ I penned at the age of 11. It was only epic to the poor people slogging through it). I don’t generally write long. I don’t know how that happened. My fat fantasy novel currently out on submission is a whopping 88k words. I figure this suspense novel will be lucky to bump up against 80k words. I have a couple short stories that go over 6k words, but just a couple (and some of my 4-6k stories are ones that I’m sure others would advise cutting a bit out of).
I don’t know why I can’t seem to write long. I have a suspicion that it is in part a weakness in my writing. I’m probably glossing over parts that might need more description, leaving out setting when I should build it up, skimming conversations between characters, and probably missing points where more pressure could be applied to the story. I think the fact that I was able to go into my outline and dig another ten chapters out of it indicates that I missed a lot on the first pass through the outline, in my first concept of the story as a whole. Come to think of it, this is the third time I’ve revised an outline for a novel to be bigger than it was initially. This process is becoming part of my novel writing process. Which I don’t think is a bad thing. I’d rather revise the outline as I go and find the points of pressure or setting or whatever that I’m missing than miss it all entirely.
But I should probably stop thinking about myself as an epic fantasy writer. That or write an epic fantasy or three. If I can. I don’t know if I could. Seems like a challenge I should take up. You know, once I’m done writing the other ten things on my plate. *grin*