The Process: How I Write A Novel (Part 3)

Six weeks have passed since I started the first draft of the third book of the Dawn Saga, and things are progressing quite well. I’m currently at around 70,000 words, nearing the end of the “conflict” phase of writing. (To see how the first 30,000 went, as well as an explanation for how word counts relate to number of pages, check out Part 2.)

When I write a novel, I try to think of the book with the classic beginning, middle and end, but I rename them as: Introduction, Conflict, and Wrap-up. For me, with all the characters I have and the pacing I want to maintain, I typically make the Intro about 20,000 words, or the first 20% of the book. In the case of this novel, I was able to get things started a little quicker, and it is only about 15,000 words. That may increase in the second draft if I don’t feel like I’ve shown enough back story, but we’ll see.

Conflict, where the main theme and meat of the story is revealed, is expanded in this novel, mainly due to the fact so much is happening. Normally, I shoot for 60,000, but in this case, where I have more characters and plots in motion, I think it will take at least 65-70,000 words to resolve them. Right now, I’m a little over 50,000 through this section, and things feel good. I realized one of my big plot points wasn’t going to fit into this novel, so it got bumped to the final book. I’m pretty comfortable with this decision, but I’m hoping it doesn’t make that story too long. We’ll see when we get there. 🙂

Nearing the end of the Conflict section of this first draft has been a bit nerve wracking. I love where the story is going, but possibilities and options are slimming down. Obviously anything can get fixed in subsequent drafts, but I feel best when I don’t have to add major plot points or fix huge mistakes. It’s just cleaner somehow, and I think it makes a more cohesive story if I tell it right the first time.

One thing that often happens to me during this phase of writing is what I think of as external spontaneous story generation. I’ll be following my outline, moving the story forward according to plan, when a profound revelation will occur. Sometimes it’s about a character, sometimes a particular event or course of the story. The thing that makes it weird and different than outlining is that it often feels like the thought comes from outside of my mind. Outlines are linear and logical, but these spontaneous ideas tie together several different thoughts that initially have no real connection to each other. This current novel has had several of these moments, and it has made for an exciting journey. It’s been fun!

I’ve been listening to quite a bit of epic electronic and metal music during these last few weeks. I find it helps me get deeper into the action and battle scenes. The more vividly I see what’s happening, the better the reader will as well. Music helps me dial in the mood and tone of what I’m writing, but if I pick the wrong track, it can really distract and throw me off.

Process Step 3: Work your outline, but be flexible and listen to where the story is actually heading. Stick to your word goals. Play epic metal and electronic music on repeat.

(Continue the series with Part 4.)

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