Friday, November 14, 2008

The Last Free City - Good News and Bad News

Other than the odd splutter, my cold is now firmly kicked into touch, and I can review with a head no muzzier than usual progress on the misbegotten work in progress. Like Richard III, it feels like it's been in the womb for two years and no doubt will be born with teeth...

My aim when writing first draft is to write 1,000 words a day, and on average I've achieved that over the past ten days, with a novel twist: I've managed minus 1,ooo words a day. At the beginning of November I had 135,000 words "down and dusted": now I have 125,000. At this rate of progress, by mid-February I'll have nothing at all.

Bummer, eh? Well, as it happens, perhaps not. If I reframe the problem to look at how far from the end I am, things are much sunnier. At 135,000 words, I thought I was probably at the end of Act III, and probably looking at 190,000 words for the total (boo! big book=high production costs=high retail price=miserable sales=end of career). I was contemplating taking out one of my three viewpoint characters (the "early life of the villain"), a 40,000-word strand. This would have been a shame: stroppy adolescents are fun to write and fun to read, particularly when they're devious little sods...

Then I had a much better idea. The plot loop which kicked in at about 125,000 words and launched Act IV could be ditched with comparatively little pain: it separated hero and heroine at a point where their relationship had become the focal point of the novel, and introduced a new location which undercut the carefully-built claustrophobia of the first 125,000 words. So Act IV goes; 10,000 words are chopped, and suddenly we're on the verge of the denouement. I'm already at the end of Act IV, and I hadn't realised it. It makes for a tighter, neater narrative structure and a pacier escalation towards the conclusion. Whatever was I thinking of in adding a wholly unnecessary sea-voyage? (other than the chance to write a sea-battle. That can wait...).

Yesterday evening I sat down and wrote out the remaining plot on one side of A4. I know who betrays whom, who survives the final bloodbath, who gets the girl, and who doesn't. I know who slides off into the shadows to pull strings another day, and who must survey the wreckage of their schemes.

For the first time, the end is in sight...

4 comments:

Alis said...

'For the first time, the end is in sight...' And isn't that a fantastic feeling!?

Aliya Whiteley said...

Fabulous! And at 125,000 words plus, still a very impressive size, if you don't mind me saying so.

Tim Stretton said...

Yes, Alis, and I find it's always a surprise when it happens. One day you're plodding along hoping that your method works...the next you have that vertiginous sensation that it's almost finished.

It may still be a train-wreck, but at least I can brace myself...

Aliya, I think fantasy writers tend towards the upper end of the size spectrum, if that isn't boasting!

David Isaak said...

Congrats! You made all that sound like a conjuring trick. One I wish I could do.

And, yes, fantasy writers do tend to run long. These days 125K is pretty trim.