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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The Open Wound

As I was coming out of a chicken house today, I slipped and scraped my hand on some concrete. Only the skin was off, so I rinsed it and went on with my day, not sparing it a second thought as I was pretty busy. I was only reminded of it again tonight as I gave my hands a thorough cleaning in the shower. It stung and hurt – reminding me of an event that I’ve forgotten about.

I realized as I stood there, watching the water pool at my feet, that it was a pretty good reflection of the my life. Last week I had an occurrence which scraped the skin off of an old wound in me. At first I ignored it, but then, when I had the time to digest it, I realized that I hurt and the pressure under which I currently had to work with just made it worse. My inner being came to a grinding, soundless halt and I was thrown into a quiet which had been my companion for a long time when I was younger. My writing stopped and I found myself aimlessly sitting in my chair, staring at my fish because that was the only thing that made me happy. Everything else felt as if it took too much energy.

The good thing was that I recognized this. Sunday, as I was about to do my weekly drabble, I stared at the screen and realized that I had nothing to say. That there was nothing that I could say until this quiet in me lifted. I saw the signs and obeyed them and packed up my writing computer for the past few days. When I got home, I indulged in whatever mindless movie I could find, keeping the company of Ellen Ripley, Alien Killer connoisseur and Alice, Zombie basher buff. I knew what my soul needed and I provided it.

The reason for this is that as writers, be it professional or not, we tend to use quite a lot of our energy in our work. The greatest stories are built on the anguish of authors. We open up veins and let them bleed all over the pages regularly. And, we can only do that successfully if we have the energy to let it run. I knew that if I wrote more, if I continued on the track that I was – hurling through my fiction, I would’ve burned myself out and forced my hands to be still for weeks to come. Now, I gave myself a break to let the open wound in me heal so that I can move on.

It’s very important. Writing isn’t just about the story – it’s about yourself. About what you can offer and what you have to give to the characters to make them survive.

Because by doing so, you let yourself survive.

Take a break every now and again, and make sure you know yourself. It will safe you in the end.

Know Your Character

As I’ve said before, I’m working on my own personal project at the moment.

I’ve been thinking about this story for almost 4 years now, the characters, the milieu and the main plot. I’ve done well in writing, coming up to about 25,000 words in 3 weeks when quite suddenly, I hit a standstill. I reread some of my chapters and realized that the character had responded all wrong. Also, it had pushed an interaction with another character that I didn’t want, and cut out the importance of the character that I actually needed the main role to be.

This was all very well and exciting at first but then I realized the reason this had happened was because I didn’t have the character act in the situation as she rightfully should’ve. I went out of character and had her become something her set (and needed) personality wouldn’t allow. This was why I got stuck.

Couple of months ago (ee gad, more than a year), I spoke about how it is very important to make sure that your character isn’t a Mary-Sue and I’d like to expand on that idea by saying that you have to make sure who your character is. This week, I read a post from Kim Harrison which briefly mentioned the myers/briggs personality test and, on impulse, I went and googled it.

It’s opened up a whole new world of character development for me and, as I had submitted my characters to the Mary-Sue test, I’m now going to submit them all to this test I found on the web so that I can correctly judge their course of action and behavior. (I took it myself and the result was very interesting!)

The thing is that the best stories’ characters are believable and I think that my most disappointing moments in books happened when a character did something which I felt was completely (and I mean completely) out of character. It crushes the reader and makes it less believable.

And to me, writing a story that is believable – with real emotions and responses, is the most important focus.

So, I’d suggest that you take these tests and spend some time developing not only your main characters, but your side characters as well and try to understand how they would interact with each other.

So far, it’s working for me.

 

The Project and Procrastination

I feel a little as if I’ve been through a tumble drier of late. So far, January’s been a crazy month. I’ve had a lot to do at work, more so than usual and a lot more admin work which is my death and I’ve had my 5 month evaluation on which the decision will be made on whether I’ll be re-employed again or not. It wasn’t bad as evaluations went, but I still hate being weighed and measured.
My work is stressful, even though on a day to day basis I don’t work as hard as someone who spends all their time sitting in front of their computer. I only see about four to three clients a day but it’s draining and the distances that I have to cover to get to them is murderous, espesually with the amount of rain that we’ve been getting.
I’m not complaining naturally, I remember very well where I come from and ‘the waitress days’ are never far from my mind.
But, I’m tried and it’s taking its toll on my writing.
The Project has taken a stumble. I feel like someone who’s just let a whole bunch of fishing line fall down and roll away from them. I’ll have to go back about 9000 words to try and fix what I messed up. I’m not a happy camper, but it’s all about learning isn’t it?
Meanwhile, I’ve become totally addicted to Cyanide and Happiness comics. I’ve already read over 1000 of them.
This one in particular is one of my favorites.
Procrastination is great.

Update: The Project

I am still busy with my project, now approximately 18,000 words into it. Wring have slowed down a bit, but I expected it. For me, the first chapters are always the easiest because my stories are still simple there. Plain. I introduce some characters, give the readers a few things to think about with the main character and introduce a theme which I try to drag through right to the end. My themes have ranged from things like “This character can’t do maths,” to “the dead never leaves us,”. It all depends on my mood really.

I’m pleased with how things are going, but I’m starting to realize that I need to do some serious planning. Or, not planning but mapping certainly. The thing is that, this story is not just about the story. The theme actually plays a very big role in this and I need to accentuate that without repeating myself too much.
At the moment, I’m repeating myself too much.

But, things are flowing. I have a nice set of characters, my main characters are established (sort of) and I have already picked a proverbial scapegoat. Because, my stories won’t be the same without a little bit of unfair treatment.

And, my main character surprises me, which is a pleasant thing. I have worked with the same characters for so long that there are very few surprises for me. This one is different. She has a mind of her own.

It’s good and so far, I hope the writing is as well. 😉