Sunday, September 15, 2013

Just write the damn book already!

When I first sat down to write a book, trying to get to 75,000 words seemed like a daunting task.  I tried to plot and pace the story, but I had no idea how much "stuff" I'd even need to put into a book that long, so it was hard to estimate what I needed to do.  After doing some research and basic math, I found that if I had 28 chapters at 2,500 words each, I would make it to my word count goal.  Romance novels tend to hit a little lower than that in word count, so it gave me some room for editing and possibly just finding the end sooner without doing much damage to the overall structure. 

For weeks I tried to plan and plot and research how write it, the best ways to write it, and the accepted normal structure for a novel.  The one thing I ignored from my research was the obvious first step, which was to just sit down and write the damn book.

So finally I decided I needed to at least try and write the first chapter and see how it fit with my word estimates that I had come up with in order to give me an idea of how to plot it out.  It had been 10 years since I done any creative writing, beyond blogging, and even that would fall under the category of "non-fiction" so I wasn't even sure if I could write a piece of work that wasn't a literary critique or historical summary of some sort.

Finally one evening I sat down at my computer and just started writing.  I wrote what felt like a first chapter, and low and behold, I was within a hundred words of the 2,500 word estimate I had made that I'd need in each chapter to get me to my end goal.  The technical writing wasn't great, but the story was okay, and after a second day of writing I was up to nearly 4 chapters!  A this point, the story was really coming to me and I was having more trouble getting all of my ideas down on paper as I was actually writing the story.  I also found that while I was enjoying the story I was writing, I had more and more spin off stories coming to mind, with several of the same characters within that world, and as those stories became clearer in my mind I started writing those stories down too.

That leads me to where I am today.  I have several incomplete novels in the same series, and no true 1st draft.  That first story I started is the closest.  I am close to the 75,000 word mark on it and I've technically come to the conclusion of the book, so one could say it is finished.  Except I wouldn't even think of giving it to a beta reader yet.  My writing improved a great deal from chapter 1 to chapter 24, and after having written several other stories, my ability to write conflict and story has improved exponentially.  I truly believe that when I go back to edit this novel, I will only have about 30% of the content that I currently have remaining, which the rest will be thrown out and completely rewritten, which makes going back to this book such a scary task.

Currently  I have ideas for 3 sets of 3 novels (for those doing the math at home, a total of 9) in the series, plus a few short stories that I'd like to tell that do not lend themselves to full books.   I have also decided that the first book will probably be book 4, or the first book in the second set, giving me a bit more time before I have to come back to it.

I do not regret the path I took at all.  No, my first novel wasn't the brilliant work of art I had hoped it would be, but I learned so much more from actually writing it that I would have if I had not taken that first step.  No amount of planning or researching or even classes would have prepared me to be able to make it great on the first try and everyone has to start somewhere.

So where am I now?  I'm currently halfway through the first book in the series, which started out as a short story, but has become very much a full length novel.  More on that later.  However I am on target to finish the first draft in a few weeks, then my plan is to set it aside and start writing book 2.  Once I am finished with that one, I will go back to book one and do a thorough edit, hand it to The Husband to edit and beta read, then hand it off to my two friends who have agreed to do beta reading.

It feels like it has been a long journey the past six months to get to here, but I feel like I am finally making progress and starting to actually be a writer.  

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