So I “won” NaNoWriMo yesterday at officially 50,188 words. Never mind what the site is saying, validation always screws with the final word count. I take mine from Scrivener every day so it’s a good benchmark. Did a great job, I’d say, as I almost, accidentally, finished a book! Now how did that happen?!
Let me explain. As you probably know (or read in my facebook fan group) I’ve been slogging my way through the 8th Green Fields book. The plan was to finish it in SeptemberOctober for NaNoWriMo, but when I finally got to what felt like the halfway point of the plot and I was shy of 100k words, I realized I might have miscalculated. I also wrote the perfect last line last week and thought, so sad, I’m not done with the book, but this would have been the perfect light cliffhanger ending!
Also factoring in that last week I only wrote 6k words (which on a good day I can do within said good day easily) I should have realized that something was going on. My subconscious has a habit of slowing me down when something’s not quite right (which in 9 times out of 10 is the reason why I get writer’s block, which really is “you wrote yourself into a corner and need to fix this” block). I guess the problem was, what I WAS writing worked well, so I didn’t see the issue.
I’m right now at 110.9k words for the novel, with about 5k of that over the mark where the book will end. I have a list of five scenes that I want to add to / introduce to the book, something that I’ve NEVER done until now. So yay, learning something new on book #15, or something like that. Being a writer can be very fascinating (and scary!) sometimes!
Looking over what I’ve written, it feels like a solid plot, but because I thought I had to pack it all into one book, I think I took a few too many shortcuts. It feels to me like I hewed my way with a machete through high grass without ever pausing or taking the chance and exploring something appearing along the way. Those are usually the best parts of the book so I really shouldn’t skimp on them…
I still think that my original idea is a solid one, and it would have made a solid book, but seeing as no one was angry with me for splitting the book when I asked, I think I can take a hint. Fact is, since that week in early 2015 when I had a massive boost of creativity that ended up turning a stand-alone biotech thriller into a 6-part zombie apocalypse series, I haven’t really had to go back to the drawing board and play around with plot arcs. When book #5 came out and readers wanted more, it was easy to leave some questions unanswered and add some foreshadowing, so #7 was a wrap when I sat down to write it. If you’ve read it already, you know that, like book #2, it has a very road trip like feel to it, and that’s pretty easy to write. You just check off boxes, and each of those boxes ends up being a part in the book about the same amount of words, usually 10-20k.
Book #8 (and now #9) doesn’t work like that. For starters, I wrote an extra 35k in the beginning that wasn’t planned, yet it just happened. I started writing just after finishing the first draft edits of #7 and sending that to my editor and the beta readers, and until I got everything back from them, I wrote the first half of the book, including that unplanned chunk. The opening chapter was supposed to be what ended up being chapter 10 or 11 now. It’s a great opening chapter, don’t get me wrong, but not the right first chapter if you consider how #7 ended. Because unlike every other book, #8 needed to start with what happens an hour after the end of Affliction. The day after. The week after. No spoilers here from me, but I think you would have all killed me if I’d just hashed over the next five weeks and confined what happened to a paragraph of reflection. Seriously, what writer can pass up 35k words of emotional and physical anguish!?
Well, not this writer, it seems. And so the “issues” started.
Everything I write usually runs long. Just ask my high school teachers. What ended up being Incubation, the first book in the series, at just over 90k words, used to be a 40k novella concept. Two of my books have gone to almost 150k words, which is 1.5x of what I’m always aiming for. Only the first stayed below that. It’s like once I’m writing, I need more words than I plan, and my plan for #8 was very tight, and very crammed. Oh well. So now you get to have two books, one coming out soon, the other likely in early spring, and I get paid twice. The horror, really!
So will it be two shorter books? Hell, no. #8 will likely clock in at 120k, just like #7, Affliction. And while right now I can delude myself into thinking that #9 won’t be as long, I’m not holding my breath there. That book will have a pretty heavy climax of about 50k realistically (I thought I could do it in 10. Ha!), with a beginning round-up section that’s 35k, I’d say, and I need connective tissue between those, so another 15k, plus the end, which will be around 10-20k… so about 120k again. Sounds legit! Now for real. Come to think of it, on the writing and structure part #9 is starting to feel a but like Resurgence, book #5–that ended up at 140+k. Damnit!
Have I mentioned I make most of my money with Kindle Unlimited, and I get paid by pages read for that? So actually, writing more means moar monayy! Bring it on!
Oh, right, I’m the one who has to do the writing. Never mind.
So what’s on my agenda for the rest of the week? I’m almost done proofreading my first draft, as it is. I will finish that today and type in all the changes (5-10 per page, printed in double space, 8pt font. Yes, I’m crazy, and apparently have a paper saving fetish). I have my short list of content additions that I will work on after that. One scene gets a massive addition, another some elaboration, and then some extra, mostly conversation stuff in a few strategic places. I definitely told Bree’s story in this book, but she’s not an island, and the other characters deserve some time on screen as well. Today I’m tired as hell as I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, and tomorrow I have some social obligations that involve great company and booze (plus, I really need a haircut!) so that will cut into my productivity, but I will have this wrapped up soon. I think. As I said, I normally don’t go back in and add stuff. All my foreshadowing is already in the book. I usually do that in a way that feels like throwing little balls of plot forward so my future self can then catch and unravel them, or continue to throw them forward. What’s missing from this book are non-essential things, but things that carry the very soul of the book. Details that make it feel more real, bits of research I was so excited about when I discovered it so I decided it needs to go into the book. Since I don’t have an agent, publisher, or developmental editor that tell me no, not essential so it needs to be cut, you’ll get your extra 15% soulful content! And, who knows? It might be those extra scenes that turn out to be the starting point of yet one more plot ball getting lobbed into future books. Yes, I plan my plot, but sometimes connections develop that surprise me as I write them. I believe that’s the secret of a plot that keeps readers on their toes. Have a good, solid foundation, but be prepared to catch a random ball that ends up fitting perfectly.
Damn, I need more sleep because that mental image just made sense to me.
So maybe you’ll get a book this year after all. If not, you’ll get it in January, and starting next week, I’ll work on the next one so that it will be out sooner rather than later. After all, I’m smack in the middle of the story and my head is in the right place. Gotta use that momentum!