The Project: Word count

After an initial bad (or false, depending on how you look at it) my project – in which I’ve decided to try and write my own original story – is moving forward again. I’ve edited the first 4 chapters (all approximately 4000 words in length) and took out the scenes which had been bugging me. In doing so, I did lose a couple of dialogue pieces which I’m sorry about – but I’ve put them in my note book and hope to work them in again at one point or another. My total word count for the story now stands on just over 27,000 words. Considering that I had aimed to write 1000 a week (giving me a total of 52000 for the year) I’m pretty pleased with myself. Now, don’t think that I’m halfway – no. This baby is only getting started.

I use word count as a measure of how my story is flowing and where I am approximately. Couple of months ago, I spoke about using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. It’s mostly aimed at screen writing, but I’ve modified it for my own uses (after having a lot of success with it in Script Frenzy 2010). It helps me to establish whether I’m slow with my plot or whether I’m bombarding the reader with it too quickly. Also, you need a good framework on which to build your story and I feel that this beat sheet is it. I won’t be able to completely measure this until I’ve completed my story but it’s a good place to start.

While I was debating about word count, I thought to google some popular works and discovered this great web page. It gives the breakdown of a lot of famous works’ word count. Naturally (and to my pleasure), fantasy word count rules. I like to measure (and imagine) my own works against these – so that I can establish how thick a book I’ll write one day. 😉
For interest, I’ve archived over 680,000 words on my FanFiction.Net account. Which means that I’ve written more than Tolkien did on Lord of the Rings. 😛 I’m not saying my work is as impressive as his, but it’s something to think about when I look at the words on my book case. For your amusement, here are some of the well known numbers that I’ve found:

Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien (revised to be in line with the rest)

The Fellowship of the Ring: 187k
The Two Towers: 155k
The Return of the King: 131k

Total: 473k

Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World: 305k
The Great Hunt: 267k
The Dragon Reborn: 251k
The Shadow Rising: 393k
The Fires of Heaven: 354k
Lord of Chaos: 389k
A Crown of Swords: 295k
The Path of Daggers: 226k
Winter’s Heart: 238k
Crossroads of Twilight: 271k
Knife of Dreams: 315k

Total: 3M 304k

A Song of Ice And Fire – George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones: 284k
A Clash of kings: 326k
A Storm of Swords: 404k
A Feast for Crows: 300k

Total: 1M 314k

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Robert Jordan – The Eye of the World

This post contains spoilers for the book.

I’ve finished this book today, though not for the first time. I think, to date – I’ve read it about five times and I have to say, I’ve enjoyed it every single time. Of all the books in the Wheel of Time series, this one is by far my favourite. It’s simple, the quest basic: Three boys taken away from their homes by a sorceress because one of them might change the fate of the world. They run from assassins, monsters and all manner of unspeakable things, each learning something of themselves along the way.

Unlike later on in the series, the cast is still small and you have all of the principle characters travelling together. I think one of my biggest critique on the series is that later on Jordan (Light rest his soul) brought in too many side stories, too many side characters. I find that later in the books all the characters (especially the women) are very much alike. It’s like having a bunch of clones running around in various places.

Not so in this book.

Everyone is clear and defined. Their features, their personalities, their personal hopes and dreams. Even the cold and serene Moiraine Sedai shows a bit of who she is, of the events that’s shaped her until this moment. You are unsure of everyone’s fate, unsure of where life would take them and, with the knowledge that the later books give you, you cannot help but pick up the small clues which point each character in his or her destiny.

And, I loved the surprises.

Mashiara by *FarArden on deviantART
My favourite scene (and I am not the romantic type) is when two characters who’s had a strange rivalry ever since the book started, have a quiet moment in the dark together. Admitting love but not giving in to it. The pain, the soft words and the genuine emotion that radiates off of the page trapped me and made me realize that there is nothing so good as well thought over dialogue.

To me, this book truly stands out among the rest and the wonder that I had felt reading it the first time is echoed every time I touch the pages. If I ever get to write my own books, may my first one be as good as this one.

A Favourite amongst Favourites

I’m currently reading Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World, the first book in his Wheel of Time Saga. I’ve rediscovered my love for the series after I saw that the latest book, Towers of Midnight. Rereading the Eye of the World is like a pleasurable journey. A slow one, because I don’t have a lot of time to read, but not one I’m in a big hurry to end. The thing is, because I know how the book ends, I’m not too worried to reach it and I can take my time with the proverbial ‘scenery’ so to speak. It’s like wearing a pair of old, comfortable clothes that I’ve forgotten about, or riding a horse that I’m very used to. I’m enjoying the story for the love of it, not because it’s new or exciting.

I enjoy it because it’s a part of me.

While reading this, I’m ‘catching up’ so to speak, with the characters that are all like old friends of mine. Two of the characters in particular have leapt out at me and if it was possible, I’d have run to them and embraced them for I have missed them more than the others.

One of these characters is a woman called Nynaeve al’Meara, a young village healer approximately my age at the start of the tale. She’s a fiercely strong character, (with many flaws I admit), with a terrible temper (someone’s described it as being able to split bullets) but a sense of loyalty towards her people that runs so deep she takes personal offense if anybody touches those she considers to be hers. I love reading about her especially now because I have the insight to realize what becomes of her, what role she plays in the book and how she matures into her part. I was frightened when I first read the books that Nynaeve would fade to the background because she’s introduced as a side-character but – as it turns out, whenever there is something really important that needs to be done, Nynaeve is the one to do it.

She learns through these books about herself, about life and about the price of duty. She learns to love, to hate and to forgive herself for her mistakes (sometimes). I find myself hoping that, like Nynaeve, I’ve learned the same in the past couple of years.

What’s on the outside does count.

I listened to a radio show today as I was cleaning my apartment and the presenters spoke about how important it is to have a good CD cover if you want to sell your music, especially when it’s aimed at the ‘impulsive’ buyers. People are much more prone to pick up a CD if the cover intrigues them than when there’s something ugly and boring on it. It’s human nature, we reach out to beauty.

I realized that this was very true for book covers as well. Many years ago, I was drawn to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, not by the synopsis on the back (it was pretty vague) but the cover in front. I had been looking for a new book to read as I had all but exhausted the authors that I knew. I have to point out that I was about 13 at the time, (still in primary school) so different things mattered to me than they do now. For one thing, I was very fussy about the way a book was presented. I didn’t touch Terry Pratchett’s novels because back then, I considered the art to be ugly (now he’s one of my favourite authors and I search high and low for the books still printed in the ‘ugly’ covers). I can’t remember what exactly drew my attention to books, but I suspect it had something to do with horses and powerful women. (I was a girl in search of a role model).

Robert Jordan’s first book The Eye of the World, succeeded in just this. I can still remember the day I had picked up the book in the Adult Fantasy section of the library. A young man (probably twenty) had teased me when I pulled the book from the shelf, telling me that there weren’t any pictures in the book and I had to go back to the children’s section. If it had been me now, I’d have made some snotty (cut-you-off-by-the-knees-and-leave-you-there-to-bleed) comment but back then, I was a quiet child. I had merely shrugged and turned the 814 page book over and over in my hands. It was thick. I had read The Lord of the Rings the summer before that and it had taken me almost a month to finish it. (Bear in mind, I was 12 and English was my second language). It was daunting, especially when I noticed five other books about the same size on the shelf. I promptly decided that it would most probably keep me busy for years and in a sense I was right. I had put it back but couldn’t find anything else that took my fancy as much as the woman on the white horse. So, I returned to the, stared at her for a very long time and finally decided to take it.

The cover had won me over, the woman called Moiraine had taken my fancy and in a sense stolen my heart. Within two days, I was hooked on the story and the books, and started devouring them at a pace that scared even my mother. I caught up pretty soon and then waited, month after month for the next release. It was before my internet days, so I could not stalk the author and websites to know when the next one was going to come out. It was exhilarating and the books were favourite of all time for years.

I’ve grown up now, I’ve changed a lot from the little girl (too tall, too quiet, too awkward) that had first pulled the book from the shelf. I understand myself a lot better now and why I was drawn to this particular set of books, to this woman. I’ve have discovered other series, better authors, more intriguing (and gut wrenching) stories. But, I still love the books even though I have not touched them in years. Robert Jordan’s untimely death had hit me very hard and I stopped reading the books all together then. I kept buying them. But I have not read them in years.

The second final book, co-written by Brandon Sanderson (who was chosen by Jordan’s wife Harriet to complete the series) has just been released and suddenly, I find myself remembering what these books meant to me. What the characters meant to me and how they had carried not only their world’s hope but mine as well. So, I have decided to return to the Wheel of Time. I have the first book beside me now, the picture still as appealing to me as it was thirteen years ago, proving that a good cover can sell your books through the ages.

And remain in the hearts of your readers for life.