Knowing when its Time to Freeze the Story into Carbonite
Well, the bottom line is two fold: I don’t have the time to write a 300k+ story. Also, my craft is not strong enough to do it justice.
Lots of thoughts are going through my head right now. The foremost thing is, “Goddammit, I’ve been working on this f’n thing for ten goddamn months. That’s a lot of f’n time to waste.”
True. True. But you know, its better to stop at ten months then at three years. And you know what, its not like I’m deleting it from my computer. Its still there, in really good shape actually. I can come back later when my craft is stronger.
Bottom line—regrets, yes. Right decision, yes.
Over the next week, I’m going to give myself some time to just mull things over, recoop my losses, and form a new strategy. When I come back, I’ll be stronger.
In the mean time, here are some things I’ve learned from this wonderful ten month adventure.
High Level Items:
- Scope well. Know your limitations–particularly if you are a new writer. When I was in video game school, we made a lot of 2 week mini-games. They were short and played in only a few minutes, but they helped hone our craft. I need to take a cue here and start small and work up.
- Adding more POV characters only increases the size of the story, but also increases the work itself (plot, characters, description, etc.). I think every time I added a new character, I may have added on another 50-100K words. I had six POV characters.
- Look at the amount of time your story spans. Mine spanned five years. This was a good indication for length.
- My rough draft is really just a skeleton for the first draft and equaled approximately 10-20% of the story (not 60% as I had thought).
- Thinking time is invaluable. I drove a lot in a former job and it gave me time to come up with ideas for the story. Continue to use my phone’s voice recorder for recording these. That worked great.
- Weigh how long it takes to write a story vs. how much time you actually have in your life to give to it. How often do you work? Do you have a family? Do you have other obligations or responsibilities? Do you have other interests or hobbies? Be realistic.
- Don’t listen to your heart. Don’t listen to your head. Listen to your gut. My heart wanted to continue because I loved it, my head just told me the reasons why I should and the reasons why I shouldn’t and just confused me more, but my gut told me it was time to stop.
Things I do well
- The story concept was a really good idea—steam punk special ops team. That’s just really cool. Plus, I was putting my own spin on the whole Victorian Sci-Fi genre to make it unique.
- I have a strong writing process—the burst technique works really well for me. I can use this with other stories I write.
- I write a lot and am disciplined. I’m focused. I’m not easily distracted and rarely have writer’s block. This all goes back to having a good writing process.
- I was good at turning the editor off and writing.
- I was getting really good at tracking the amount of time I devoted to the novel. This will help me with scoping and planning in the future. I’ll do this a couple of times and I’ll have a pretty good gauge on just how long it takes me to write a story.
- I am a good writer. I had a good plot, good characters, dialogue, pace, rhythm, and setting.
- I’m not afraid of killing the baby. If it doesn’t go, I take it out.
- I have a strong understanding of why I write—because I love doing it. This is my primary motivation. Everything else (i.e. publishing, is secondary) and that helps me focus and not worry about success.
- I’m patient and kind with myself. If I mess up, I don’t beat myself up about it.
Things to improve
- Get a better grip on scope.
- Bringing the story to its climax is difficult for me. I want it to be satisfying. I think a lot of authors have this issue, though, even professional ones. A lot of stories do not have satisfying endings in my opinion.
- I have a hard time with plot. I’m instinctive and eventually I wade my way through it, but I need to have some tried and true techniques that serve me well. For me, its the most difficult part of the writing process. Always has been.
- Need to be stronger on description and transitions.
- I need to figure out a good balance between how much I spend on my writing and how much I spend on other obligations. Quite frankly, I was tiring myself out trying to do both.