Stop digging. That’s the well-known First Law of Holes. Right now, though, I think I need to turn this law on its head. I’m pretty deep in a hole, but I really need to keep digging!
Life has happened in the last week or so – family vacation, frantic prep for courses to begin next week, and some general late-summer doldrums. The result is that I’m way behind in my word count 4,000 words behind! But I can’t just quit. I have to keep digging, in the sense that I have to keep wacking at those words. I am determined to build myself a bridge to dig myself out of that hole. Wish me luck!
LATER – I’m on my way back out. I wrote 1,000 extra words today, so I’m only down a mere 3,000. Progress!
…two steps back. I was well ahead of my word count when I ripped out the whole scene I’ve been working on and started over. Now I’m about three days behind. But this is an exposition scene, and it needs to show several things about characters and relationships as well as the facts of my fantastical world, so it really needs to not bog things down. I think I’ve found a way in that works. We’ll know more after it’s done, of course, but for now things look good. Watch this space for more updates!
I think I think too much. Comes with the territory, I guess – college professors are like that. I keep looking for the “right” way to do things, and then tweaking things a little, and a little more, and still more, to try to get everything to fit.
Case in point – I read a post by K. M. Weiland recently on one of my favorite blogs about the importance of a character’s breaking point. It is when the character, who has been struggling throughout Act II, finally makes the irrevocable commitment to the new view of the world, and in the process must sacrifice something he/she thought, at the beginning, of the story, was of ultimate importance. It will allow him/her to face the crucial trials of Act III and be successful. It proves that the character has really made the change that the book is all about, and pivots the story from Act II to Act III, which means it should come about 75% of the way through the book.
Problem: in my Work in Progress, I don’t know that I can pinpoint such a moment. There’s one that I think will qualify – Kay, my protagonist, starts out all about running from her problems, but at a crucial point decides to stay and fight, and this is what saves the day in the end. Well and good. But (a) I’m not sure what she sacrifices to do this, and (b) it’s closer to 90% into the book than it is to 75%.
So is this something I need to fix? Will it push my story out of shape? These are the kinds of things I struggle with. My solution for now: keep thinking about it. I have a (distressingly) long way to go before I get to that point in the story (I’m maybe 10-15% through my first draft). Maybe a solution will bubble up. If not – I’ll write it the way I’m seeing it now, and fix it (if it needs fixing) in the revision.
Put things off to the revision – a good plan. JUST KEEP WRITING!
I’ve hit a couple of nice milestones in the last few days. One is that I finished my first chapter (out of probably a dozen – not too certain yet, but that’s how it looks from here). The second is that I finally got back into the red, ahead of my planned word count, after falling behind from taking a few days off for other essentials. Two things helped me to get there:
- As I explained last time, I lowered the word count expectations from 500 words/day to only 250 words/day. I’d rather be able to beat my expectations consistently than keep falling behind, even though it puts of the draft completion date into 2015.
- I found a tool I love: Write or Die. You can set all kinds of parameters, such as word count and time goals, and choose different options, and then once you start writing you have to keep writing no matter what or things happen. My preferred option is consequences, which means that the screen will turn a dire color and horrible sounds will start coming from the speakers if I fall behind my goals. There is also a kamikaze mode I haven’t had the nerve to try, where if you fall behind it starts going through and deleting all your vowels. Believe me, this thing is a great help! I tend to dither, pause to look things up, freeze while I debate whether he pulled on her arm, or yanked on it, or maybe tugged. These are great debates to have in revision; in the first draft, I really need to just pick one and keep going. I strongly recommend this tool if you want to boost your own word count.
Remember the song “Ease on Down the Road” from The Wiz (by Charlie Smalls)? I’ve been humming it a lot lately, because it describes where I am with my novel and where I expect to be for quite a while. I’m behind my expected word count because some necessary business kept me away for a few days, and I’m behind in the work I need to be doing in my day job for focusing on this (classes start in FOUR WEEKS!), so I’ve dropped my expected word count down to one page a day: 250 words. I really hope I can do that, but even if I can I’ll be only about halfway done with the first draft by the end of the year. Gah! But still – if I’m making progress at all, I will be fine with that. As the song says:
Pick your right foot up when your left one’s down.
You just keep on movin’, don’t you lose no ground.
Though the road you’re walking may be hard sometimes,
You just keep on stepping and you’ll be just fine.