Now is the time on sprockets where I feel like I am running running running and not getting much of anywhere. The good news is, I’ve written enough novels that I recognize this as a standard part of the process; it happens in every book. And since this one is so long, I can now say with certainty that it isn’t based on wordcount, but rather on where I am in the book. (If this were a Lady Trent novel, the draft would have been complete twenty thousand words ago.) The “running running running” stage begins somewhere after the halfway point, but before the three-quarters mark. It’s just that since this book is so long, I’m going to spend much more time feeling like I’m on a hamster wheel, before I get to round that last corner into the home stretch.
This chapter was interesting because very little of it is from the perspective of our main protagonist, R—. I mentioned in the post for the previous chapter that she was coming apart at the seams; that hits its peak here, so that the characters around her are carrying the ball for a little while. We got to introduce a new pov, which makes me very happy — it’s a character who’s been on stage for most of the book, but we haven’t been in his head before, and his perspective gave us a great angle on what V— is doing here.
Anyway, we are now out of that particular plot pit and enjoying our last stretch of relative calm before things start ‘sploding. Enjoy it while it lasts, folks, because it won’t be for long.
Word count: ~128,000
Authorial sadism: S— being forced to look respectable, and V— dealing with metaphysical stuff that laughs in the face of his usual skill set. (There are actually much worse things in here, but the “authorial sadism” slot is generally reserved for the stuff we enjoy inflicting on the characters.)
Authorial amusement: A penchant for biting. And trying to look lovelorn rather than like you have indigestion. And snoring like a dockworker.
BLR quotient: More love. So much love, amid all the trouble.
Yeah, we wrote another chapter over the weekend.
This is partly because it bugged us both that we didn’t get more done during the week (even though we knew we had multiple good reasons for that), and partly because . . . I really wasn’t good for much else, the past few days. What I thought was a cold turned into a gnarly throat infection, and I spent most of Friday and Saturday following a carefully-scheduled regimen of two different painkillers, warm salt water, herbal tea with honey, and anaesthetic cough drops and throat spray, that left me without much energy for stuff around the house. But the next few scenes were mapped out clearly enough that I could write, and that way I didn’t feel like the time had totally gone down the drain.
This is a very delicate part of the book. Someone has some information, but it needs to be unclear to the reader who has that information, due to the layer cake of lies and obfuscation that is most of our characters’ lives. And we need to make someone behave in ways that will be internally consistent, send one message right now, and be reinterpretable as something else entirely at the end of the book. Plus our main protagonist R— is coming apart at the seams, and while it’s entertaining to make her screw up the steps of the Dishonesty Dance (which she can normally perform in her sleep), we need to make sure those screw-ups are meaningful, without totally blowing the whole plot out of the water.
So, y’know. Nothing complicated to see here. Move along.
Word count: ~119,000
Authorial sadism: Nightmares come true. Well, sort of. I mean, not really. But close enough to that to make R— completely lose what remains of her shit.
Authorial amusement: Surprise deployment of the World’s Gaudiest Spider! And I would be lying if I said the “nightmares come true” thing wasn’t pretty much the high point of this book for us.
BLR quotient: You can’t see it from where you’re standing, but love, all the way.
Various factors (the holiday, my family visiting, me being sick, etc) meant we didn’t do as much this week as we have been lately. I’m reminding myself that this is totally fine: the benchmark Alyc and I set for ourselves at the outset, the “this is a pace we can easily maintain and only if we drop below that threshold do we need to sit down and have a conversation about slacking off” line we agreed on . . . was five thousand words a week. By that metric, we ought to have just hit the 50K mark.
We have nearly 113K words of book. Of which 5400 was written this week.
So yeah. Not our most productive week, but the only reason it feels off is because our average level of productivity has been wildly above what we originally estimated. And we knew going into this that there would be times when illness or other factors would slow us down.
We’ve also done a lot of work in sorting out the back half of the book, threading in a new angle on the main plot to make it a little more complicated and give our heroes more points at which they can intervene. This has involved, among other things, taking a character who used to be a naive innocent looking for love in the wrong place, and turning her into a hardened revolutionary. Still looking for love in the wrong place, mind you, but she’s much less pitiable than before, and much more interesting. But we aren’t really to the meat of that yet; first we have to get through the current crisis. And before that can be resolved, we have to get through the next chapter, which contains a scene we’ve been looking forward to since before we started drafting. 😀
Word count: ~113,000
Authorial sadism: Sometimes it’s the little moments that are the worst. Yeah, yeah, grief and people being supernaturally cursed . . . but the thing I most want to save our characters from is that moment where R— pulls back from V—‘s hand. It isn’t responsible for sending everything wrong, but it certainly doesn’t help.
Authorial amusement: Forgetting to cue Ally #1 to respond to a different signal than Ally #2, with the result that they both come stampeding in to help at the same time.
BLR quotient: See above re: grief and curses. This chapter is not without its love, but right now blood has the upper hand.
This Friday at 9 p.m. Pacific Time (9 p.m. Eastern), I’ll be doing a Google Hangout reading and Q&A session in support of The Pixel Project to End Violence Against Women. Here’s the link for the YouTube Live stream; obviously there’s nothing happening there yet, but you can bookmark that and come back to it in a few days.
While you wait for that to roll around, though, there’s a fundraiser as well, which has already made it more than a third of the way to its $5000 goal. This will be ongoing for the next month and change — it ends October 15th — and they’ll be rolling out additional perks throughout; my own donations are currently scheduled to go up for grabs later this week. But there are already several awesome things available, and I’d love to see the project blow through its initial goal well before the fundraiser ends.
Ahahahahah yyyyyyyyeah, so, about that 21-chapter/175K thing . . .
On Tuesday evening Alyc and I sat down to try and fill in our roadmap for the later part of the book. We started at the end, figuring out how we are going to stage our Thrilling Conclusion; then we worked backward from there to figure out what precipitating events that would require. I then looked at our existing outline (which we keep in a handy-dandy spreadsheet), whacked off Chapter 21 for denouement, Chapter 20 for climax, and Chapter 19 for setup, and counted how many scenes we needed to supply before that, in between the things we already knew. Assuming four scenes per chapter (which has been our average, though admittedly that number may rise as the plot moves faster), we needed another twelve or so to fill out our twenty-one chapters.
Our off-the-cuff list of things we needed to have happen filled eight of those twelve, and that’s without giving one of our major characters anything to do or providing any events to make a certain relationship arc grow the way we want it to.
In short: urk.
So, um, yeah, we’ve just gone ahead and bumped that chapter estimate back up to 24 and the wordcount estimate to 200K. That’s actually more book than we can fill right now, but it would mean the novel breaks into four parts of six chapters each (and we even have reasons why six is a numerologically significant number to use), and it gives us room to work in more plot complexity and character depth. We don’t have a full outlne of the remaining book yet — chunks of it say things like “riot goes here” — but since we almost invariably find that we need to add bridging elements between the things we’ve got planned, I don’t think we’ll have trouble filling in the gaps.
It’s an odd way for me to work. I don’t normally outline to any significant degree, much less put together a color-coded spreadsheet. But since we have to consult with each other on where the story is going and balance things like the interleaving of different viewpoints, it’s proved necessary. And since we went into this with a much clearer idea of our story than I often have when I start drafting a book, in some ways you could say we’re just further along the path I normally walk: I know some key events I want to hit, and then work on figuring out how to navigate from one to the next.
Anyway, we didn’t really write two whole chapters this week — just finished two. I wrote the first thousand words or so of Chapter 12 last Friday night, in a fit of inspiration, and Alyc did the same thing with the first scene and (to a lesser extent) the second scene of Chapter 13, which backtracks slightly in time to show what’s happening concurrently with the events of 12. But we’ve hit that point I get to with every book, where the end feels simultaneously SO FAR AWAY and also OMG SO CLOSE. Right now that SO FAR AWAY impulse is the more accurate one; I’ve written whole novels that are shorter than what we estimate lies between us and our conclusion. But when I can see so much of the road ahead, it makes it seem like it’s rushing toward me really fast.
Word count: ~105,000
Authorial sadism: To some extent it’s the same thing as last post, because a goodly chunk of this chapter is the fallout from the things we did there. But a certain character is never going to meet with formal punishment for the things they’ve done wrong, so they’re just going to have to atone via a whacking great burden of guilt.
Authorial amusement: More of this to be had now, thank ghu. I suspect Alyc’s answer is the Plot-Relevant Hookup, but I’m going to go with all the marginal comments they left on a later scene saying things like “liar liar pants on fire” or linking to Valerie from The Princess Bride coming out to scream at Miracle Max.
BLR quotient: There’s still a hell of a lot of blood staining things, courtesy of the previous chapter. But gradually the balance shifts toward love, as certain people are there for each other when they’re most needed, and someone grows a conscience.
One of the funding goals for the New Worlds Patreon was a fifth essay in the months that have five Fridays, focused on techniques or underlying concepts rather than specific details of culture. This month over on Book View Cafe I rant about monolithic worldbuilding: fictional societies where something (religion, fashion, sports, whatever), is exactly the same for every single person, with no regional, historical, class, or other variations.
If you’ve been enjoying these essays and aren’t yet a patron, now is a lovely time to become one! (My birthday is tomorrow.) Patrons get photos, ebooks, bonus essays, the opportunity to request topics — even direct feedback on their own work at the higher levels. We aren’t too far from the funding goal that would add a regular Google Hangout for patrons in which we can discuss worldbuilding more generally (on a rotating schedule to accommodate people in different time zones).
After two marathon evenings of writing, we are now — at least in theory — halfway through the book.
During Worldcon I had people asking me how long it’s going to be, which is a simple question with a complicated answer. When we were originally laying out the plot, we tossed down a few key events and more or less arbitrarily declared that they were the one-quarter, one-half, and three-quarter marks. The one-quarter milestone came in at 47K and this one wrapped at 98K, but the original three-quarter mark has been moved to a point that will definitely not be anywhere near 150K. (We’ve added a ticking clock on a certain plot thread, and that event needs to happen before the clock runs out over there.) So right now we’re just kind of guessing. Looking at the scenes we definitely have planned, taking into account the average length of scene up until this point, and realizing we’re going to need to add more scenes than just the ones we’ve got listed . . . the answer I gave people at Worldcon was “175K plus or minus 25K.” Which is, y’know, a rather large margin of error.
But we’re homing in on that 175 or so. That would be approximately twenty-one chapters, which feels like the appropriate ballpark to be looking at. Might be twenty-two; probably won’t be twenty; outside chance it will bounce up to twenty-three, once we actually figure out how the ending is going to go. (Our original estimate was twenty-four.)
Regardless of where it winds up falling in the overall pacing, this was the midpoint in the sense of being where the entire book pivots. All our major plot threads just collided; now our protagonists will realize those things are connected, and have to do something about it before things get worse. We inflicted trauma in wholesale quantities, and dropped a lot of clues. A central character underwent a major change of direction. And there will be very little in the way of leisurely politicking at dances and parties now — everything is moving too fast for that.
Word count: ~98,000
Authorial sadism: This entire chapter.
Authorial amusement: . . . see above? This wasn’t the kind of chapter where we went “tee-hee” over silly things. Our amusement was the sadism, because writers are like that.
BLR quotient: Blood. No contest.