(Keep on truckin')In my last post, I talked about the random ways that a story can develop. Well, one of the things that brought that on was the pace at which I've been working on my latest novel. Although I've talked about a story ending when it needs to, I still decided on a general word count goal of 120,000 for my most recent work. Yes, I know - focus on plot, worry less about length, figure out where it's going and get it there...blah, blah, blah. I get all that, but the number I came up with isn't something hard and fast whereby I'll slit my wrists if I'm off by 15,000 words in either direction - I simply use it as a yardstick to help me gage my progress, nothing more.
Anyway, I'd like for this novel to be done by Christmas, and in order to get there, I've established a daily word count goal of 1000 words per day. I can usually do that in about 30 minutes if I'm in a rhythm. Unfortunately, as it always does, life sometimes gets in the way, and I wasn't always able to get around to what I wanted to do. I had to work, play with Rachel, take my dogs for walks, and spend time with my wife if I didn't want to end up in divorce court, so I failed to hit the mark every day. I wanted to get to 60,000 words by the end of September and I fell 2000 words short.
However, even though I feel I still have a quality novel that continues a story told in an earlier work, it felt a little bit like I was reaching for a few days. Some of my pages felt like filler material that I was using just to get to my word count goal, and that's not a good thing. A story has to stand on its own and keep the reader turning pages, or else they'll put it down and find something that maintains their interest.
Part of this was my focus on writing without as much emphasis on outlining. I'm not someone like Stephen King who can just sit down and poop out a 150,000 novel without so much as an idea as to where it's going. I need to think out at least a general outline as to where the story is going, while being careful not to get so far down the road that I don't allow it to breath on its own. I just moved along within the story and didn't focus on the ideas, which left it feeling bland to me. This one is part horror, part action thriller, much like Akeldama, and I realized that I lacked enough action, and the suspenseful/horror portion had little for the reader to enjoy.
So I've gone back and looked at where I can spice things up. Some of the "filler material" will stand because I found that it's actually a necessary component to advance the story - you need the conversation between the investigator and the patient at the Utah State Hospital in order to establish why certain monsters are treated the way they are in the book. However, some will soon be gone, and even more won't survive the editing process.
The biggest takeaway from the past month of writing is to breath and enjoy dishing out the story. Part of me wants to do this so I can build up that stash of books I'll need once I start this as a full time career, but I still have to turn out a quality product for people to enjoy. Yes, being done by Christmas would be nice, and is still very achievable, but I can't let that get in the way of a writing a good book.
I think I can do another 30,000 words in October, especially seeing as I did over 41,000 words in September, but I think I'll catch my breath and focus more on the craft rather than the count. If 30,000 words this month happens, that's great. If not, at least I've got a few four day weekends in November to keep on moving.