Word counts

As of today, my book is ~174,000 words long. Last year at this time, it was ~100K words. The scary/good thing is that maybe only 10K of last year’s words are still around in any meaningful way.

Take this morning as an example. I rewrote a scene of ~1500 words that I hadn’t touched in about 9 months. It’s now 2,031 words long, so that’s ~500 new words, but really, almost every word is new b/c I rewrote it to make the scene better fit other scenes I’ve been writing (and rewriting) and b/c it the original text wasn’t all that great. (Today’s version is better, but still needs work.)

I mention all this b/c it’s a glimpse into the process. And, when I started this project one of the podcasts I listen to (Writing Excuses), Harold Tayler (one of the hosts) mentioned something along the lines of “you have to write one million practice words before you get good.”

If you Google that phrase, you’ll find a bajillion hits of folks repeating variants of that phrase.

It stuck in my head because goals can be useful. But, I’ve lost count of how many total words I’ve written — because of the ambiguity I referenced above. Should I only count the 500 net new words? Or should I count them all (~2k)?

Does it even matter?

When I started fiction writing back in March 2013, it definitely mattered. As did the arbitrary goals of 50K total words written, then 100K then 150K, etc.  I used to track words per day and words per week; now it’s just net words per month.

Now, it’s more about putting the time in — butt in chair, hands on keyboard (another of Tayler’s lines that stuck with me).

With all that said, I do kinda wish I had kept tracking total words written. It’d be nice to have a “solid” number. But, I suspect I’m about halfway to the 1 million goal.

And not a single one of ’em is published. Yet! =D

 

 

 

Oars, shmoars

So I just finished ~3 hours of pantsing what I just outlined yesterday. Amazing how the subconscious works.

Instead of a choppy, awkward scene where I contorted characters to fit behind their oars, I let them find their own seats. Like a Southwest-run galley.

New words just flowed — maybe 1500 or so, in addition to whatever I edited to fit into the new vision for the scene. Makes up for the 2K-ish words I just threw out.

Backstory for Odin just leapt onto the page, used as a weapon against Baldr, but Baldr felt alive and genuine. He took the hit, reversed it, and convinced Odin to moderate his outlook. Believably, I think. And it’s totally different from the first few drafts…which means I have lots of things to amend in linking scenes.

I’m most pleased with how it felt right while writing. I’m sure it’s riddled with weak spots and too many words. But that stuff’s fixable so long as the scene lives and breathes.

I’m also happy with the approach on the scene — it’s the first one in this book that has in-scene PoV switches (everything else changes PoV when the scenes change). Should help keep it moving.

Ultimately, the proof will be when I re-read the scene later today or tomorrow. But, I’ve a good feeling about it. Clearly. 🙂

Pantsing…

Pantsing is the art (?) of writing by the seat of one’s pants. Winging it. Going where the story & characters take you. Or, just writing to see where you end up.

The other end of the spectrum is outlining, where you plan it all out in advance…and then stick to that outline.

It’s never either / or … not for me, at least. I do both. When I get into trouble or when I’m trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing, I outline.

I’m currently rewriting yet another scene, one that I mostly pants’d my way through probably 18 months ago. When I read my book in Sept ’15, this particular scene stopped me dead in my tracks b/c the pacing was off. It was too slow. Leaden.

There are two reasons:

  1. It’s unfocused (too much pantsing)
  2. It’s just people talking — about important things (major plot events, etc.) and there’s a lot of interpersonal dynamic stuff going on, along with backstory references and foreshadowing, but it’s still just folks talking.

Think Council of Elrond, but without  John Rhys Davies having an allergic reaction to his dwarf prosthetics and the “Elves extras” who were paid to sit still and act wooden. Or w/o Agent Smith’s overacting, Mr. Anderson er Underhill er Baggins.

My in-progress solution to reworking this leaden scene is:

  1. Rewrite it. Some of my writing is cringeworthy, even only 18 months out. Good sign, really (that I can see it & can therefore fix it).
  2. Totally re-organize it — Just started today and am doing it by falling back on a new outline.
    1. Figure out the absolutely key things
    2. Make sure they’re addressed appropriately and without redundancies or repetition 😉
    3. Obscure those important thingees with red herrings, tastefully placed
    4. Fill in backstory & foreshadowing
    5. Make sure the characters are acting and interacting as they should
  3. Revisit POV
    1. Is the POV with whoever has the most at stake?
    2. Is the scene written so that it shows who’s talking — ie Odin vs Frigg or Vidar?

The only way I can do all that is outline it, then (re)write by sticking to the outline, then rewriting it again (and again) so it sucks less.

One author quote that’s been resonating for me is from Nabokov: “My characters are galley slaves.”

So while my inclination is to use pantsing to get to know my characters,  I use outlining to chain them to their oars.