Saturday, August 17, 2013

How Long Should Elf Queen Be?

A milestone today!  I got up and started writing as soon as I had caffeine in my system.  I stopped for lunch with the fam, and then for a trip by the pet store for cat food, and then I went back to writing. 

It was thus that I truly reaped the benefit of having shaved down my Works in Progress from five to one.  I went into today knowing where I wanted to go, because I'd been thinking about it and it alone, and when I sit down knowing where the prose should go it leaves my fingies to just type.

And type they can!  Long ago I held the largely thankless position of editor of my high school paper, and I was one of the few people on staff who could type.  This was the days well before computers became a thing, and most of the other kids on the paper staff couldn't type, and so I'd get stacks of handwritten articles and have to type them myself before they could go to the typesetter.  It was, thus, a matter entirely of survival that I got my typing speed up to between "pretty fast" and "burn the keyboard up." 

I took my family to lunch, then, with 3,000 new words in the manuscript.  I finally took a nap this afternoon with 5,000 as my word count for the day, and that also took me over a milestone: 50,000 words in the book!

At the same time it did something psychologically significant: it proved that I can still turn out >5,000 word days.  I did that regularly on the weekends when I was writing Cataclysm and Ascension, but I hadn't seemed to be able to get more than 2,000 words no matter how hard I tried.  I did it, though.  I've since gotten over 6.000 in my word bucket for the day, and I still have more words and more time to write.

That milestone, though, brings up an issue.  I outlined the Elf Queen series to be a set of nine 50,000 word books.  Now, if you just said, "But Stephen, I thought you were a pantser, not an outliner!" you'd be correct, but I'm talking about the outline for the series, not just the book.  The point, of course, is to make sure that each book is a story, with protagonists and antagonists, unto itself while the series has an underlying theme and its own overarching protagonists and antagonists.

Think about Harry Potter.  In each book he was the good guy, with his trio of wizards, and Voldemort was the bad guy.  Yet each book had its own set of challenges, its own plot arc, and its own set of antagonists specific to that arc.  Riordan's series is like that, too--while you might be missing out on some of the original information if you just pick, say, book three to read, you'll still be treated to an entire story with a full plot arc.

So why did I pick 50,000?  Well, first, back when I was planning this out I was only half as experienced as I am now.  I had problems fleshing out the story.  Cataclysm, for example, was 68,000 words when I finished its draft, and it currently sits at 93,000 words.  Both the other two novels followed the same path, though Deception had a lot less growth involved, because I got better at fleshing out while I wrote.

But when I planned, my thought was that Young Adult books (which the Elf Queen is intended to be) are, according to such experts as Writers Digest, supposed to be in the 55,000-70,000 word length range.  That meant that by pegging a 50,000 word first draft I could slip the book right in where it needed to be.

And now, I'm at 50,000 words, and I'm not quite halfway into the story.  Uh oh!

That's okay.

I actually expect to cut some of this rather than the previous adding I've done, for one thing.  For another, I'm no longer thinking this will be Young Adult.  Yes, it tells the tale from the point of view of a young adult, but that doesn't mean the story will be aimed at that age range.  Fantasy, according to the same experts, needs to be in the 100,000-ish word range, and I'm headed right that-a-way. 

Bottom line, I suppose, is that a) I'm moving along once again, which is wonderful, and b) I'm right on par with where I should be in word count.

I'm happy.


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