Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Château Soleil Update 14: Major Milestone 2

Current word count: 140,419
Chapters done: 42/52
Projected length: 173,852 words

We're on the home stretch now. This update marks the end of Book 2. As mentioned in a previous post, I've sub-divided the manuscript into three smaller "books". Book 1 covers about the first half, Book 2 the next third (or so), Book 3 the final sixth. This may seem like an odd way to organize a story, especially considering how rigorously outlined it is. I had a number of reasons for doing it this way, but the most pressing is that the story is laid out around narrative set-pieces. Each capital-B Book ends with a major event in the story and deals with a piece of correspondence that is being referenced throughout that section. There are other reasons, of course, but they are seriously too pretentious for me to talk about in a blog post.

Obviously, these are conceits that might not survive to the final draft, but for the time being, I'm using this as an excuse to celebrate! The other cause for celebration is that I'm getting to the part of the book that is genuinely fun to write. It's the part I've been looking forward to for the last, well, 140,000 words or so. This is a (relatively) big book working towards a (relatively) big ending. There are a lot of pieces floating in the air, but getting them lined up and watching them clink into place is really satisfying.

See you all again in 10,000 words,
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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Château Soleil Update 13: Unexpected Challenges And Rewards

Current word count: 130,927
Chapters done: 39/52
Projected length: 174,570 words

So, I wanted to talk a little bit about the unanticipated challenges of working on a story that is this length. It turns out that later chapters are harder than earlier ones, for not-obvious reasons. And that biggest challenge has been in finding the entry point into a chapter. From my outline I know what what major plot beats have to happen and whose eyes we're looking through, but that still gives me a lot of leeway. And it has to start somewhere. In earlier chapters, it was easy enough to just start where the last one left off. But my characters are more spread out now and their chapters aren't necessarily chronological. So finding that starting point means finding the arc of the chapter and working backwards, rather than starting at a fixed chronological point and discovering the arc as it moves forward.

Now I don't want to sound like I'm griping. Because unexpected challenges are coupled with unexpected rewards. For instance, I just wrote a fight-to-the-death scene that wasn't in my outline at all. My POVs were going to discover the body a few chapters later, but I ended up getting certain characters together for dramatic purposes and it made sense to make the death happen during the scene. Having made that decision, I was able to invoke a parallel to an earlier chapter with the same POV character, and to have her make a different choice this time, while also drawing on some of her backstory. It also meant that the plot mechanism doesn't dominate the chapter. For my outline, I had a pretty tiny bit of information she needed that will be very important later. It's the whole reason she's there, but it's not what the chapter is about anymore. So it's a lot of work to gather up plot threads instead of laying them out, but that's also a big part of the fun of a larger work (I say "larger" like this will end up being longer than your average Michael Crichton novel--but humor me here people). It's pretty joyous when a lot of elements come together after you've spend tens of thousands of words setting them up.

And hey, I'm officially 3/4 of the way through my outline. If I keep going at this pace... you know, I'm not even going to try to guess because I'm horrible at it. I honestly thought I'd have this whole thing done in January.

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