Back in mid-April I was struggling with a 75k-word behemoth of a book that was only a third of the way through. I had been working in it for over a year, and knew I was floundering in a sea of details and plot points. I needed a change.
One day I sat down at the computer and simply couldn't write anymore. I still cared about the characters, I still loved the magic system (though it definitely had flaws), I had recently written some of the best work I had done so far, but it wasn't enough. I was trying save a drowning dog, one I loved, but I was about to be pulled under by the riptide. So I let the dog go.
I began to write. I typed not knowing what would come next, completely in the dark as to my plot, setting, or even characters. I spent maybe 5 minutes coming up with a name for the protagonist, then plunged ahead. Keep in mind that up to this point, I had only ever worked in outlines, time lines, and maps. This was to be a strange new world for me, and I was excited for the first time in months.
The only thing I went forward knowing was that I wanted to do things differently. I had a host of things to avoid, from excess descriptions, to overly complicated plots, to massive settings. This new book was to be simple, short and (hopefully) sweet. It was the palate cleanser to the unfinished roast and potatoes of my previous work. If I had slogged ahead with the old book, (and if it didn't kill me) it would have ended up at nearly 225k words, or about 900 pages (ridiculous). With this new book I was embarking on, I decided a leisurely 50k words, or approximately 250 pages would be ideal.
Another change I wanted to make, was genre. Despite staying within the realm of fantasy, I would be moving into YA (young adult) fiction, instead of adult. Both books had teenage protagonists, but unlike my first book, this one would be full of (if I could manage it) wonder and a bit of whimsy, without the dark tone and violence of the other. (Despite enjoying that sort of thing. I'll try to post about what makes writing dark fantasy so enjoyable sometime soon.) Writing YA had never really been a thought for me, despite enjoying so many books within it. I figured that I would benefit as a writer from the simpler (arguable) stance of fiction for young people. I'm glad I did, but I soon found out that "simple" wasn't in the equation.
Another first for me was a definite schedule for writing, something I had never done before. Oh, I had told myself on specific nights that I would do this much writing or so on, but it had never worked well before. Unfortunately I found myself with this burning desire to write a new book a mere month before my first semester of college in over four years. So that became my deadline. One month to write a 250 page YA Fantasy novel. I figured that if I wrote 5 pages per day, with 10 pages each on Saturday and Sunday, I'd finish my first draft just in time.
This was a huge undertaking. I was planning on writing a 50k-word novel nearly the size of my first attempt (the unfinished 75k-word book) in less than a tenth of the time (remember I had been writing the 75k monster for over a year). I must have been insane. I was going to push harder than I ever had before, with the intent to eventually submit the results of my efforts (editing and multiple drafts weren't included in this timeline. I'm still engaged in that actually) for publishing. With my previous book, I had known the whole time that it would never be published, so this was a big mental change for me.
I proceeded with writing, having more fun than ever before, finding that I had gained a lot of knowledge over the last several months of struggling with my first work, knowledge that was already making itself known in the beginnings of this new book. Despite many flaws (which I am ready to admit in a second) this book was already one hundred times better than the first.
Despite all this, self-doubt and depression (the writing kind, not the pill kind) set in periodically (and they still do). It is an unfortunate side effect of writing, and every writer experiences it. There are days where you read the passage from the night before and immediately want to delete the whole thing. Days when you wonder why the crap you even try. Nothing I write can ever be of any worth, because I just sucked so much. Times like these suck your soul from your body and stick it in a garbage disposal along with the moldy cucumbers. But you have to endure, you have to keep going, and with the encouragement of Becky, I was able to fight past that and move on.
One month later, I had finished. The book is titled "The Sometimes Sword" and sat at a comfy 56k words, just over my goal. I couldn't believe it. I had actually written a book, and finished it. Yes, I had taken shortcuts (some scenes were shorter than they needed to be, but hey, it was a first draft) and my dialogue was painful to read, but there It was before me. It was sticky goodness in word form. I was so proud, yet so ashamed (more on that later, you writers will know what I mean).
The book was nothing groundbreaking, in fact, I had written it that way on purpose. I hadn't set out to write the new biggest thing, I had never thought that it would even be original. I wanted it to be familiar and warm within the fantasy blanket. And it is. Or so I believe.
Now to the title of this post. What am I currently working on? Several months later, and many ripped out chunks of hair, the second draft is currently in the hands of my alpha readers. This draft is 84k words long, nearly 380 pages. A lot has been added, and lot has been cut without mercy (more will continue to be murdered in the future). Many plot elements have been completely changed, and the subsequent editing has been hell, but the book will be the better for it.
At the moment I'm taking a break from The Sometimes Sword, letting it stew like a large chunk of cow rump. I'm reading some other works, specifically "Academ's Fury" by Jim Butcher, letting my batteries recharge. Soon I will plunge back in, and the third draft should be finished by the end of this year.