Round 1 vs Round 2

December 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm (Writing) (, , , )

I mentioned a few times that my NaNo project was a rewrite, so I thought it might be interesting to do some first draft comparisons now that the numbers are all in.

I wrote the First Version in early 2008. It was my first time writing YA, and for a while it refused to settle into a voice. Somewhere in a folder I still have the paperclipped stash where the first two chapters were written in first person, then rewritten in third. Then I ignored both of them and started over in first. I don’t have the day by day breakdowns, partly because this was before I started doing that. Writing by hand meant that I didn’t really have a good grasp of word count, either per day or per chapter, and even though I typed up each chapter as I finished instead of waiting for the end, I didn’t really understand at that point how word count was supposed to translate.

(As proof, I offer you the word count of the novel I wrote for my college honors thesis: 215K+. I so wish I was joking)

But, I do have the chapter counts.

Prologue: 286 (yes, it had a prologue, and worse, it was one of those that drops you present tense into the middle of a high-octane moment, then takes you back however long for the beginning of the story)
Chapter 1: 7895 (waaaaay too long for a chapter, as I didn’t understand at that point)
Chapter 2: 7805
Chapter 3: 7758
Chapter 4: 7875
Chapter 5: 10665 (and no, I didn’t accidentally include an extra number in there, that’s really how long it was)
Chapter 6: 8161
Chapter 7: 5107
Chapter 8: 7173
Chapter 9: 6478
Chapter 10: 8161 (am I a nerd that it seriously amuses me how two chapters had the exact same word count?)
Chapter 11: 8076
Chapter 12: 5211
Chapter 13: 6840
Chapter 14: 4241
Epilogue: 296
Total word count: 102028

On its own, it’s not an egregious word count. A little overlong, but not terrible. I was in love with it, not so surprising, and given that I’ve never had much of a hand at self-editing, I started researching agents pretty much as soon as I went through looking for typos and inconsistencies. Still, I got a few bites off of it before I reluctantly retired it to query a stronger a project.

When I retired it, though, I had no intention of leavig it to die. I still believed, very passionately, in the story and the characters, and (strangely enough) in the setting. It just needed more of some things and less of others. It needed a tighter line, higher stakes, needed some sharper edges. I just wasn’t sure at that point how to achieve those things. So I set it aside, waiting for the pieces to come together.

It took a little over three years, but in mid-October or so, as I was neck deep in another project, suddenly something clicked. Or rather, about a dozen somethings. I couldn’t play with it until I was done with the other project, so that’s when I made the decision to do NaNo, even though I prefer to give three or four weeks between projects so my brain doesn’t fry.

Here are the counts for the Second Version (chapters are listed under the day they were finished, with total chapter word count)

1 November: 8429 words
Chapter 1: 5221
2 November: 2502
Chapter 2: 4527
3 November: 990
4 November: 7402
Chapter 3: 5465
Chapter 4: 5229
5 November: 2530
7 November: 3879
Chapter 5: 5486
8 November: 7610
Chapter 6: 5114
9 November: 1768
Chapter 7: 5189
10 November: 5066
Chapter 8: 5066 (yes, that was all I did that day)
11 November: 3292
15 November: 1839

Chapter 9: 4821
16 November: 2464
18 November: 6911

Chapter 10: 4321
Chapter 11: 5037
20 November: 9482
Chapter 12: 4707
Chapter 13: 5102
22 November: 7425
Chapter 14: 4751
29 November: 7498
Chapter 15: 5037
Chapter 16: 5154
6 December: 15279
Chapter 17: 5154
Chapter 18: 5180
Chapter 19: 4945
Total word count: 95571

No prologue, no epilogue, five more chapters, seven thousand fewer words.
Average chapter length Round 1: 7246 and spare letters, not counting prologue and epilogue
Average chapter length Round 2: 5030 and spare letters

Rewriting something is very, very different from writing something new. I had to decide what to keep, what to keep but change, and what to discard completely, and had to decide what that did to the story and to the characters. There are scenes that I miss SO BADLY because I loved them, some of them because they were sweet, some of them because they still have the ability to crack me up, but I had to evaluate everything on a simple question: does this do what I need it to do? For a lot of those scenes I loved, while they did wonderful things purely for character, the overall answer was no. They didn’t do enough for the story, so they had to go.

For me, doing this rewrite was a lot harder than putting down something wholly new. I knew the characters so well from three previous books that sometimes I forgot that my audience wouldn’t know them the way I did (something that will doubtless prove to be a trial when I go back to edit it in a few weeks). I wanted to stay true to the characters I’d fallen in love with, but more importantly, I wanted the characters to be true. Which actually made me fall in love with some of them even more.

And made me realize that I am merciless when it comes to putting my favorite characters through horrible things.

What doing this also taught me is that I have a process. It’s a weird process, based on writing only a couple of days a week but writing ALL DAY, but it’s mine. That process works for me, lets me get a LOT done, and going outside of that process, while a valuable experiment, is something I need to not do in the future if I want to spare myself fruitless frustration.

After I saved the completed file, I closed it out and haven’t looked at it. Starting this evening (maybe), I’ll be starting on edits for my October project, the file for which I haven’t opened since I finished it. I need time away from a draft before I can go back to it constructively, need the time to back away, to gain some distance so I can see more clearly what needs to be repaired, replaced, or removed. After I do the edits on that one, and take some time to mentally recover, then I’ll come back to my NaNo project with a wiser eye.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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The Write Place

March 15, 2011 at 10:24 am (Writing) (, , , )

One of my long-standing goals in life is to eventually own a house with two completely extra rooms, rooms that will never need to be converted to guest space, children’s bedrooms, storage, what have you. Two rooms that will be my domain. One of these will become a library with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, comfy chairs and a couch, good light, and- ideally, but not a dealbreaker- a deeply cushioned window seat perfect for curling up with a book and a cat.

The other room is going to be an office, with a comfortable chair, a desk arranged in just the right way, the various electronics that I actually need (namely a CD player or iPod), places to tack up all the random notes and images I collect over the course of any given day, the pictures that are awkward to copy over into the composition books, a place to store my formidable array of writing utensils (I admit it, I’m a major pen junkie; I color code my notes and everything)…Most importantly, a place where I can close the door and shut out all the distractions of the rest of the house.

For now, I just go to Chick-fil-A. It’s honestly just a coincidence that it’s the same place as Storytime- I’ve been doing Storytime for a little over a year and I’ve been writing there for three years. For one thing, I have deep and abiding love for the food, and the fact that they have Cherry Coke on tap. Cherry Coke is my drug of choice. All the rest of the week, I am a good girl and drink the zero sodas, just so I can have my free refills at CFA once a week without the heaping side serving of guilt. It’s a popular place and the lunch rush lasts for a few hours, so I always keep an eye on the line and the number of available tables, and if I’ve already finished my meal and they’re packed to the point of needing the booth I’m occupying, I’ll go ahead and leave so they’re not losing business.

I don’t know if this is a business practice of CFA in general or if it’s pretty much this location, but they’re ridiculously welcoming of the crazy girl who sits alone in a booth for hours at a time (and occasionally brings a small stuffed penguin to serve as paperweight, mascot, and stress toy all in one). We know each other’s names, they know my order, they ask how the writing is going or what book I’m reading that day. Once I put the earbuds in, they swing by if my cup is topless at the end of the table, but otherwise leave me alone to concentrate.

It’s brilliant.

When I try to write at home, my ADD goes crazy with the number of distractions all around me. There are so many books to read! Or the TV is visible from the dining room table (my makeshift office, because my brother accuses me of being anti-social and whines if I try to clear off my desk in my bedroom), and all too often I get absorbed in the movie that’s just supposed to be on for background noise. And the kitchen is right in front of me, full of snacky type food that seems so light and harmless until you tally it up at the end of the day and realize- holy hell!- just how much you’ve eaten. Or the craft projects that have been neglected. Or the antics of the cats coked out on ‘nip. Or the equally ADD older brother/roommate running around like a bored five-year-old in a desperate search for entertainment. Or the room that really needs to be cleaned, or the laundry/dishes/bathroom that needs to be done.

And oh, dear God, the internet.

But I leave the house, and all of that goes away. I take exactly one book with me (or my nook, but I still limit myself to just one open title), unless it’s actually a reference for the day’s writing. I order my meal, stake out my preferred booth (the one with the power outlet; also, it’s positioned in such a way that it doesn’t matter if I forget I’m wearing a skirt. Very important. Southern I am, belle I’m not), and read while I’m eating. Finger food+ writing= ewwww. Then, when I’m done, I get out everything I need. Notebooks with outlines, characters, notes, research, and Very Bad Maps? Check. Color-coding pens? Check. iPod? Very necessary check- I am useless without a soundtrack. Filled drink? Check. Computer? Check. I used to write out everything long hand, but between all the extra time it took and the medical-type hand problems that left me whimpering with pain, the laptop turned out to be a much better personal choice for me. I just disable the wireless so I can’t get myself in trouble.

And then?

I write.

Some days the words are flowing; some days they’re not, I have to fight for every word, and I know a number of them are getting rewritten later no matter what. Whether it’s an on day or an off day, there are going to be places where I have to take a step back and figure some things out. It might be the right way to phrase something. It might be the best way to bridge two parts of the outlines. Every now and then, I’ll run across something completely unexpected and have to decide if I want to run with it or yank it back to the outline. I almost aways run with it- about 90% of the time I end up loving it, and for the other 10%, it’s a lot easier to rewrite it to the outline than to try and reclaim that Really Cool Idea you passed on. So, while I’m staring off into space, petting the mascot (he’s a very soft penguin), and letting the words or ideas fall into place, I people watch.

Also brilliant.

I love to people watch. I’m not sure if it flourished first in writing or in theatre (my background is in both), or if it sprang from both simultaneously, but people watching is amazing. It’s great exercise, actually. You pick up on quirks. You learn how to give a snapshot introduction (also good for incident reports when people try to steal). You watch the interactions between people and try to guess their relationships, their history. You make up a background for someone based entirely off what they’re wearing or doing. You snicker over the people who order a huge, deep-fried meal, ice cream, and a Diet Coke. And slowly, those exercises start reflecting in your writing.

Then, about the time I’ve had my fill of other people, the words or the ideas have sorted themselves out and I can get back into the groove. Some days I can get a couple thousand words done and I’m grateful. Other days I can slam out an entire chapter and I’m exhausted brain dead giddy. When I’m done for the day, I get home, and I can play on the intertubes guilt-free.

Well, at least until I look at the dishes.

Or the laundry.

Or the…

Heh. That’s what the other day off each week is for.

For those of you who are writers, where is your best place to write? What’s your routine? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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