500 Pages (125,000 Words)

Well, “Life” happened, and my writing pace has slowed down considerably. Not so long ago, I had hoped to be done with not only the first draft of my manuscript by now, but with my preliminary edits as well. I had hoped to have the manuscript in the hands of a few trusted alpha readers.

Alas, several factors have thwarted my plans. First and most importantly, my story didn’t like being held to the 450-500 page limit I had so foolishly tried to impose on it. My manuscript currently sits at 500 pages even, and I’d be optimistic to guess that a final page count would be near 550. A more realistic (albeit likely still naïve) guess would be somewhere between 550-600 manuscript pages.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Readers that will be buying my book in the future will be getting more story for their money. The story is more fully developed and has some cool scenes that I hadn’t planned on including.

However, “the powers that be” are supposedly looking for epic fantasy stories in the ballpark of 125,000 words or less, which translates into 500 pages or less of manuscript. I don’t blame them one bit for this guideline, either. They have very good reasons to ask for a smaller manuscript from a first time author, as longer books will generally need more work to become sale-able, meaning longer books as a general rule will net them less profit.

This will make it harder for me to convince a smart, business-minded agent that my book is one they want to represent. But the thing that matters most to me is that my book is the best it can be, and I believe that will speak much more strongly in my favor than “the right word count”.

The other “Real Life” factor that has slowed my writing is that I have recently found a new job. I am incredibly excited about the change, and as far as “jobs” that aren’t my dream job of being a career author go, it is probably as awesome as I’m going to find. But as many of you likely know, there is a considerable time and stress investment that comes with not only working full time but in finding a new, better job opportunity.

Here’s to chasing our dreams and to the struggles that happen in the background. I’m reinvesting myself in writing, and I promise I’ll have a book for you guys to read before too long. My new goal is to finish my first draft and preliminary edits by the time I go to the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton England at the end of October. I’ll also do my best to keep you updated more frequently.

-SD

100,000 Words

This is a personal victory post, plain and simple. I’m patting my own back, and it feels great. This past week, I reached the 100,000 word (400 page) mark on my manuscript.

In the grand scheme of the publishing game, it’s a small victory, but perhaps the most important one to me as a writer. 100,000 is a good looking number, I tell you what, and it represents a lot of hard work, and a lot of personal breakthroughs. The only personal achievement that will feel better is finishing the novel. Everything else that I hope will follow will be an effect of my personal accomplishment.

For years, I sat in the group of dreamers. I was fascinated by the idea of writing my own book. I can remember trying to draw my own “fantasy world map” as far back as my early teens. I soon gave up, cursing my lack of creative abilities and resigning myself to pursuing “normal” disciplines like math and science.

Many years later, after completing a mechanical engineering degree and constructing a nice “normal life” for myself and my amazing wife, I returned to my dream of creating something fantastical. I brainstormed and daydreamed and researched for months, years, but again seemed to come up short on Golden Ideas. I struggled to discover an interesting character cast. I labored to draw up a plot that followed the appropriate form according to writing experts. I toiled, studying writing books, trying to read novels in a new light, hoping to glean the secrets of writing a bestseller. I wanted to learn all of the secrets before I invested enormous effort into writing a book.

December 26th 2012 was the day I gave up. I threw all of my tedious outlines, maps and character bios on the table and put my pen to paper. Fingers to keyboard. Whatever.

And today, I can proudly proclaim that I’ve written my first 100,000 words of cohesive work. I couldn’t be happier.

What I’ve discovered over the course of these past seven months in which I’ve dedicated myself to writing is that for me, the creation process is almost entirely composed of hard work and is manifested in a very different form than I had anticipated.

I’ve found that I am capable of profound creativity. More creativity than I had ever dreamed. My novel has taken shape as I’ve freed myself from formulas and tables. I’m in love with my characters. My plot is exciting. The world is soooo cool. None of it is perfect, but I’m damn proud of what I’ve done.

And you know what? My back-story and outlines haven’t gone to the trash. In breaking out of the cage of being strictly an “outline” writer, I not only opened myself up to some exciting discovery writing, but my outlining ability improved. What I failed to recognize before is that novels are a living thing, and mine needed the freedom to grow. I have changed my story and my characters more times than I can count, but they are real, meaningful changes with purpose and direction.

The point of this post, if there is one, is that each of us might benefit from liberating ourselves from any arbitrary label, stereotype or method. Try new things. Create something. Find that thing you love to do most and get to work changing your world.

-Scott