Jan 182016

Once again, I must thank you for your patience during the long update droughts this blog so often experiences. It’s not for lack of interest on my part, nor for lack of things to say, but rather due to feeling perpetually “behind” with everything and “Oh, hey, I should write a post about that” ideas succumbing to the maelstrom that manifests from being pulled in a million directions at once.

That said, I at least come bearing good news! The second draft of Ashes of Alour-Tan’s sequel is DONE, clocking in at just under 103,000 words. In point of fact, it’s been done for almost four weeks. The discerning and critical eyes of my Beta readers now prowl through it, assessing just how much work I’m in for when it comes time to hammer the second draft into the third (and final) draft. I’ve asked them to submit their feedback by the end of the month. My current goal is to publish the book by the end of Q1 2016 (i.e. sometime in March), a goal I very much aim to hit. Alour-Tan II1 has been with me for far too long; it needs to be out there with all of you.

In similar news, while Alour-Tan II is under review, I’ve started heavily preparing for Alour-Tan III‘s first draft. I’ve no desire to repeat the mistakes I seem to continue making by failing to properly and thoroughly outline before diving in. Every single time, thus far, starting the first any draft too early has ensnared me in some kind of mid-book plot conundrum that takes demoralizing quantities of writing time and work to resolve. I want to see those coming and fix them before they amass an umpty-thousand word juggernaut behind them. It’s also my hope and goal that this will streamline the writing process itself and, to that end, I’m presently aiming to outline, write, revise, and publish Alour-Tan III by the end of this year as well. We’ll see whether or not that actually happens.

As with the first draft, I thought it might be of interest to do something of a retrospective on the process of writing this one.

Hopefully, I didn’t make any embarrassing math mistakes.

Date Milestone +Words iWPD2 pWPD3
2015-01-* My First Reader reads Alour-Tan II’s first draft
When I had all feedback in hand, I spent a few days organizing it, deciding what I wanted to do, and so on.
2015-02-06 Officially started the second draft.
Feb-Jun Made very slow progress, only managing to redraft six of the books 30ish chapters. 19,818 152 152
2015-06-16 Imported the whole book into Scrivener. 152
2015-06-* Spent most of the rest of June trying to re-map the story (the aforementioned plot snarl). Without revealing anything, there was effectively an entire second story taking place that I knew about, but that the reader never really understands, and I needed to bring that more to the fore. (reset)
2015-07-02 Decided I was happy with my retooling of chapter one. 3509 501 501
2015-07-24 Finished redrafting chapter two. 3988 181 258
2015-08-17 Finally “finished” the troublesome “chapter three.” Looking at my version control notes gives you a good sense of this:

  • Working through chapter three. …
  • Still working through chapter three.
  • More chapter three editing.
  • Argh chapter three come on.
  • Still chapter three. Will be so happy to leave this chapter behind.
  • Almost done with ch3 I think. Still around 300 words shy of where I’d like it, but it feels alright now. Still need to figure out how to end it.
  • Read-through of Ch3 with Cody. Realized I don’t even need this damn chapter.
0 (2762) 120 141
2015-08-20 Finished what was chapter four, now the new chapter three. Notably, this chapter took three days, not almost a month! 5228 1743 231
2015-08-28 Chapter four done. 4283 535 270
2015-09-* Started rearranging chapters more, which began to reveal more cracks in my outlining, despite the retool that happened earlier. 177
2015-10-07 Took a step back and returned to my outline to ensure I was going where I wanted to go and how I got there really made sense. 165
2015-10-19 My version control commit message: “New outline for draft two. Plan in place. Ready to rock. Let’s do this.” (reset 2)
2015-10-22 Completed another retooling of chapter two (chapter one, notably, has changed very little through the various drafts). 3774 1258 1258
2015-10-23 Completed another retooling of chapter three. 4153 4153 1982
2015-11-02 Finished chapter four. Note how quickly these are coming now, with the new, more-robust outline in place. That said, Halloween slowed this one down a bit. 4114 411 1204
2015-11-08 Finished chapter five, which mostly took a while because I continued to waffle about where to put it in the narrative. 4114 596 1010
2015-11-11 Finished chapter six. 4238 1413 1073
2015-11-18 Finished chapter seven. 3129 447 905
2015-11-20 Finished chapter eight. 4221 2110 991
2015-11-29 Finished through chapter 12. 16354 1817 1192
2015-12-06 Second draft halfway done. 4773 682 1111
2015-12-07 Finished chapter 14. 3349 3349 1160
2015-12-10 Finished through chapter 17. 11177 3726 1321
2015-12-13 Finished chapter 18. 3052 1017 1303
2015-12-14 Finished through chapter 20. 7170 7170 1416
2015-12-15 Finished chapter 21. 3196 3196 1449
2015-12-18 Finished chapter 22. 3593 1198 1436
2015-12-23 Finished the second draft. 18940 3788 1629

The big takeaway for me is the enormous disparity in day-to-day progress before and after the second retooling. It’s crystal clear that I was struggling through story problems that I subconsciously knew had to be fixed. Once I got rolling, my time-averaged words-edited-per-day rate barely dipped below 1000, which is excellent considering October through December are rife with holiday distractions.

This table and these numbers are also not entirely representative. For most of November and all of December, I made the decision to devote all of my “unallocated” time (i.e. time not spent sleeping, working, spending time with Cody, or watching hockey games) writing. No gaming, no modeling, no Stormtrooper work — just writing. By the end, I was tired as hell. It wasn’t sustainable. That’s reflected in the right-most column for December entries: I was trending toward 2000 WPD project average with how much I was working, despite long stretches of making no progress at all. 2000 WPD is an excellent daily goal, but being able to almost hit it when you’ve got days with zeroes in them indicates a furious bout.

Regardless of where the actual daily word count number rests, though, this was major proof to me that I have got to invest time in my outlining and plotting up front. It won’t figure itself out mid-draft. Maybe that works for other writers, but not for me. I’ll get bogged down in it, it’ll sap my desire to write, and I’ll end up spending eight months spinning my wheels.

February to mid-October, largely wasted. That’s not to say I didn’t save things from the work done during that time, but when all is said and done I retread those early chapters several times. Effectively, the second draft only really took about two months to do. That’s not bad at all.

  1. I don’t know if it’s smart or foolish to continue avoiding using the book’s actual name. Do I run any risks if I announce the name before the book’s up for sale? I don’t know. I also don’t know whether or not those risks are greater for a self-published author than they would be for a trad-pub author. []
  2. Words per day for this interval []
  3. Words per day for the project []

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