I wrote just short of 50,000 words of a novel... But now I'm not sure where to go from here.
March 5, 2012 9:17 PM Subscribe
I wrote just short of 50,000 words of a novel... But now I'm not sure where to go from here. Help me come up with a game plan to finish it. Details inside.
posted by deathpanels to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I've been writing fiction for years now. Last year I decided I needed to set myself a stretch goal to work on something longer than the 10-20 page stories I was writing before. I wanted a goal that was realistic, not overly-ambitious but also challenging enough that I would come out of it a better writer than when I started.
Being a mathy sort of guy, I decided this goal should be quantifiable. So I did a little calculation based on a very conservative figure for how much I could write in an average day (given weekends, travel, and writer's block, plus other writing urges that I might like to indulge in). I came up with 50,000 words.
After one year of work, I did it. I wrote just short of 50,000 words of a novel... But now I'm not sure where to go from here.
In retrospect, the word count goal seems misguided. The 'doneness' of a novel has nothing to do with length. (I suppose my 'doneness' measure is more like 'published', but that's a problem for later.) The piece I produced is three large chunks of mostly related plot, which I mostly know how to put together. Then there are scattered pieces that I want to include, but can't quite figure out where they fit. I worry that focusing on length has led me to follow tangential plot lines that I would otherwise have ignored in the interests of continuity.
But the word count milestone was just so damn useful as a motivator. A problem I frequently have in sticking to my writing projects is that I'll quickly give up if I come back days later to an uncompleted, disorganized work. The word count gave me a sense that this is a continuous project and I need to pick up where I left off. It gave me a quantifiable, measurable thing to work toward. I could see my goal being reached just by glancing at one number, and hold myself accountable because I knew how much writing I was expected to do, statistically, every day.
Part of me worries that I'm deluding myself by looking for simple measurable 'progress' instead of reaching for an artistic goal. Then again, maybe the word count thing can be a useful tool, as long as it's not taken too seriously.
For a few stretches, I was writing at least an hour every evening. I have a day job that usually does not completely exhaust me, leaving a bit of energy at the end of the day. But often I found myself getting writer's block, and my S.O. does not approve of my hobby infringing on dinner time, so I tried a morning shift. I found myself worrying about being late to work in the mornings, plus I'm a bit of a night owl, so I'm off that schedule now.
I really do care about this project and now that I've bitten off a sizable chunk, I want to finish it. Does the word count milestone make sense for pacing? Should I write in the mornings or in the afternoon? Where do I set the next milestone, if I don't know how long I really want this to be? (I was imagining ~250 pages, but that's just an estimate based on the scope of the story.) Should I set another milestone – say, to complete 80,000 words by June 1st? When do I need to start editing, or should I lay off on the editor's pen until I've got what I think is a working draft?