According to my writing progress tracker I am nearly 99% done with my arbitrary goal of 180,000 words for this rough draft. I’m sure that’s not entirely accurate, though. I’m writing in two of my final chapters simultaneously, with two more left, and a few additional scenes that I need to fit in, but don’t necessarily have a home. Bringing this beast to a satisfying conclusion is a lot harder than I anticipated. And it becomes even more difficult when I force myself to accept that I will probably toss every single word that I’m bleeding on to the keyboard now.
Somehow, in the brilliance of my outline, I had designed an epic fantasy novel that ended with an all-encompassing, heart-stopping. . . parlay. No, really. The warring parties get together and decide, “Ok, you get the castle.” See, at the time, it served my purpose of getting everyone to their assigned positions for book two, and I really wasn’t capable of thinking any further when I built this skeleton 7 months ago. I suspect part of the reason was also that I had wanted to kick off my writing with the start date for NaNoWriMo in 2012 and therefore rushed the end of the outline. Well, that’s going to have to change.
Fear not, fair reader. Blood, conflicts of honor, and flashing swords abound in my on-the-fly revision to the ending. Since I’ve gone off-outline, the words are coming a little slower as I try to make sure my tangents aren’t too random. So far, I think I’m holding my own, as far as the plot is concerned. By the end of the month, we shall have a bloody victor assume an unsteady throne and all the problems that come with it. The scene will be set for Book 2.
But not really, because all these words are going away.
I keep having to remind myself that I always meant to toss out this entire draft. I really had no idea what I was doing when I started writing this novel. Well, a vague idea, perhaps. But a lot of my understanding of writing now has grown out of the process. The plot and characters, too, have grown out of the writing process. Whereas before, I had identified their “wants” in each scene based on my needs as the writer, I realize now that they are inconsistent at times, so I really have to understand before each chapter why a character wants what I say they do, and what that will drive them to do when they are challenged.
As I mentioned above, I’ve had major changes to my assumed plot. I need to go back and set up those plot points now. Sam goes for character growth. I have characters who have minor epiphanies along the way- all of which were intended in my character growth arcs. Those epiphanies seem reasonable to me- I always knew they were coming. But to you, dear reader? I think they may be a bit jarring. I have to go back and set the stage for those changes.
Most of all, I need to find my voice and my character’s voices. As I was writing the final battle chapters, I realize that even though I’m writing from different character’s perspectives, their internal monologues and emotions are awfully similar to one another. That needs to change. Also, my own writing is awkward in a lot of places. I was stuffed full of advice (mmm, delicious advice) when I wrote this thing, so I have tried to axe all adverbs. . . and assonance. (oops) There are times when the narrative flow would have been much smoother if I had allowed myself an -ly or two. I also went overboard with the “show, don’t tell.” For instance, I never tell you what anyone besides the POV character is feeling, I only give you their body language. In retrospect, that’s a bit silly. But then, anything taken to the extreme is. So a lot of those scenes are going to need to be rewritten.
And of course, on the subject of scenes, I need to break those up in the rewrite.
Even if I toss a majority of this draft, I have gained invaluable experience for both the rewrite and future novels. For the rewrite, specifically:
- I now know how many supporting characters I have to develop
- I know how the plot will unfold (although it could change again) so I can set it up
- I know where I want to go with main characters’ voices in the rewrite
- I know “wants” for each scene are not enough- I need to know why
- I learned that my chapters don’t have to be one long scene- I don’t need to follow my POV character’s footsteps from the armory to the kitchen, I can just say that he got there.
- I know where a few of my consistency challenges are going to be
- I learned just how valuable character dossiers are
- I proved to myself that I can finish a novel, so I can stop worrying about that and write
There are probably a few others, but it’s 7 am, I’m working on my second cup of coffee (not nearly enough, in case that wasn’t clear), and I want to post this so that I can get back to writing. Even if I toss 180,000 words in a bin by the curb, none of them were wasted. Each one got me where I am today, and the next 150k or so that I toss out will get me even closer to my goal, which is to be there, in paperback, on your bookshelf!
Yes, I am closing this with the writer’s equivalent of a rah-rah battle cry, because that’s what I need right now: Yarrrrrrgh!