After racing through the first 50,000 words in November, December was distraction central, between car problems and multiple plumbing issues at our rental house, not to mention that every third night we were supposed to go to some holiday party or event. I kind of stopped counting, but I think I came in well shy of 20,000 words for the month. Things were more normal in January, but the last few weeks I've been trying to figure out the closing chapters. You know the expression "painting yourself into a corner?" The last chapters of a novel feel very much like this. In the opening chapters, it's easy to put words on the page because everything is new and fresh and the possibilities are endless. But, by the last four or five chapters, the possibilities shrink. You might think that having fewer options about what you need to be writing would increase productivity, but for me, this is the point in the process where writing stops feeling like creation and starts feeling like work. On every page, I confront choices I made earlier in the novel and have to decide if I'm going to write as if what's already written is canon, or whether it's time to go with a new idea. If I make choose the latter, that means big chunks of what I already have on paper are going to have to be tossed out in the next draft. I sometimes feel like the more I write, the more I'm unwriting.
Enough whining. I'm done! The first draft is 99028 words long, spread out over 21 chapters. I'm currently calling the novel "War Upon the Heavens," since that's a newspaper headline that Dorothy writes when she's breaking the story that the US is building a fleet of airships. But, it may be a bit melodramatic even for me. Fortunately, I have time to hunt for more inspiration.
The biggest challenges I anticipate in the next draft is that the balance of scenes set in Kansas versus scenes set in Oz feel off to me. Right now, it takes a full third of the book before the characters make it to Oz, and it's the middle of the novel before they actually arrive anyplace a person with only casual familiarity to Oz might recognize. Trying to figure out what to cut from the opening is going to be tough, though. I'll probably have to solve it by beefing up the second half, so that the Kansas chapters are only a quarter of the novel.
My other big, big, big challenge is giving Dorothy a more satisfying emotional story arc. Right now, a major driver of her actions is a thirst for revenge, a functional but not terribly complex motivation. She doesn't really grow emotionally over the course of the book. I have a little "moral of the story" wrap up at the end where she finds a little happiness, but it feels tacked on at the moment. I know what I'm going to aim for in the next draft, but weaving it into the plot in a way that doesn't hurt the momentum of the story or muddy the clarity of her motivations is going to be tricky.
I'm going to take a little time away from this project before I start the second draft. My next project is to do a final edit on "Empire of Angels," the Bitterwood prequel novel. My goal is to really hit that hard in the coming week. It's vaguely possible I can actually finish it in a week. All I'm doing is reading it out loud and making sentence level changes, but it's been years since I've touched the book, and it's difficult to know how much I'll be able to resist additional tinkering.
Once that's done, I'm still deciding what my next priority will be. Tackling the next draft of the Oz novel is something I'd like to do sooner rather than later. But, I also have another superhero novel, The Adventures of Cut-Up Girl, that I'm really, really eager to get to. So, I might go ahead and write the first draft of that, then return to Oz after a few months. It's possible that the intervening time will help me approach the next draft feeling fresher. But, it's also possible that I might lose momentum. It's a tough choice. I guess I'll do an update here when I figure it out.
Welcome to my worlds!
I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!
Saturday, January 26, 2013
War Upon the Heavens! First draft finished!
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