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DrummerDude

A Lengthy First Draft

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Hey Guys,
I've been working on my first draft of an action novel for a while now, and have been happy with its consistent growth. I usually get about 1,000 words down a day, so this can add up fairly quickly. But you have to understand, as well, that I am a pantser, and I often improvise a  lot on the page, though I work with the big picture in mind.
As I've worked my way closer and closer to the end of the story I've found the words piling up - 70k, 80k, 90k - now I'm just passing 100k and getting to the climax of the story. I don't think want it to be quite that long when I have the story put together, but it will just depend on how the story flows once I start doing a second and third draft. 
Has anyone else had this feeling, where they are working towards the end of the story but the words keep coming?

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"First draft" and "I am a pantser:" your answer's right there in those phrases.

 

Don't shoot me! I'm an unrepentant plotter. 😜 However, you're in very good company. Some of the most talented and successful writers are pantsers. You may have to be brutal in your editing when it comes to the next draft.

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No, don't feel bad, I understand completely. 🤣 This is my second book, though, and I'm seeing a drastic difference. I didn't plot out either one. My first book was 65K, but I think that when I get it published, the publishers may ask me to add some scenes to it to flesh it out some.
I think if my second book has any trouble it's that the middle is sagging a bit. I'll have to see how it flows when I read the complete draft.

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I used to be a pantser, but the middle would be hard to get through.  The thought of plotting was horrible.  Where is the creativity inside of that?  I dreaded plotting because of the way I was forced to do so in school was a horrible experience, and I could not get that out of my head.  However, it was after much encouragement that I gave it a try.  I used bullet points, and instead of trying to string random ideas together I sat down and told you a story.  I used my pantsing on this told story, and at the end, I had a really nice outline to come back and fill in with details.  Still, I have found that once in the story I wanted to replot parts because I did not like them as much.  I may have changed a secondary character into a main character, and am replotting the end after I killed one of the main characters.  So technically I'm now a plantser.  Oh, and if you're worried about word count, I'll put it to you this way.  I'm a little over 2/3 done with my story, and I'm at 163,000 (ish) words in.   I will write until the story is finished, and then decide if I want to make it two books, or ruthlessly cut words.  Either way, God gave me a story, and I need to get it all out, then pray about where to go with it after that.  Prayer being the main thing!  

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Unrepentant quilter speaking up here!  Get it down on paper. All of it.  It can be organised later, promise.  

There is an element of craft in the word count concept.  We don't want any extraneous words and there are filters for those. I think of Paul writing in the Roman jail.  Every word counted. 

At the same time, when word count concern is about having too many, it is about business, not creativity.  The first draft is not a time to think business.  Think craft, think awe and wonder and let the words pile up.  I rejoice that you are getting in touch with your creative side and silencing that inner editor.  

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First drafts the more words the better! Second drafts are where you have to get ruthless with cutting, but don't waste those words they can often be recycled into short stories or used to beef up weaker scenes! Also I find an excess of extra ideas coming in that last quarter of a story indicate material that can be used for the next book, if it is a series,...or too much material can be turned into a series if the word count is too much and you find it feasible to make a split in the storyline. Just be grateful for long first drafts,...they are a blessing of overflowing ideas! 

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13 hours ago, Alley said:

I dreaded plotting because of the way I was forced to do so in school was a horrible experience, and I could not get that out of my head.

Ugh, no. No wonder you dreaded it!

 

I mostly use Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method, incorporated with elements from KM Weiland's brilliant tools. I find those enhance my creativity and help me get to know my characters and backstory in depth as I string the plot together. I particularly love KM Weiland's "character interview," where you ask your characters questions and they "answer" them. So much fun, and they really get the creativity going.

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I remember in school being forced to make detailed outlines when all I really wanted to do was to write the article/story/essay. In grad school what they wanted was a thesis statement to guide your writing. I still think that's a good idea. It puts fences along the road you are taking.

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18 hours ago, Alley said:

 I'm a little over 2/3 done with my story, and I'm at 163,000 (ish) words in.   I will write until the story is finished, and then decide if I want to make it two books, or ruthlessly cut words.

It sounds like you have quite a lot of material to work with there! It's really cool to see that you've really gone to town with your imagination, just letting things flow and seeing where the story will take you.

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37 minutes ago, DrummerDude said:

It sounds like you have quite a lot of material to work with there! It's really cool to see that you've really gone to town with your imagination, just letting things flow and seeing where the story will take you.

 I might not be so good at short stories.  :$  :)

 

So, was any of this conversation helpful, or do we need to be specific about something to help you out?  

Edited by Alley

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3 hours ago, Alley said:

So, was any of this conversation helpful, or do we need to be specific about something to help you out?  

It's certainly helpful to get some ideas and feedback from other writers. I guess what I'm looking for is to get a sense of what other writers have experienced. Have others had colossal manuscripts that they then trimmed down? Or did they take those manuscripts and turn them into two books? Did the longer manuscript just become one novel with a lot cut out?
I guess that's all to say this is a prompt for a brain-picking session. Thanks!

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Well, I know you want to try and stay within the normal (for your genre) word count for at least your first couple of books.  If you are looking to pitch your book traditionally, this is a must.  I know most people recommend this for the first few on self-publishing also.  At least until you have an established fan base.  Then you will have a little more wiggle room.  

I know most of the writers I've talked with on this subject go for trimming the word count, and in some situations cutting whole scenes.  I'll let the others that are further along than me tell you what they do.  

Also, you could do a youtube search for word count/cutting word count, but be warned I don't see any that are Christian.  

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My first several novels were north of 150,000 words each. I had to cut 30,000+ words from each, and they still were too long!

 

Read Write Tight by William Brohaugh. It helped me understand how to use fewer words.

 

I am a plotter. I outline extensively. Despite this, I am still surprised by what comes out at the end, because I am not afraid to change the story as I go along. My best ideas come during rewrite. In one novel, I changed the villain five times. If I can't figure out who the villain is, my readers will be surprised too!

 

The last novel I completed, I made a big change at midpoint, which really helped me avoid a sagging middle. In my outline, I had planned to have the heroine vindicated at trial, but instead changed my mind and found her guilty. The punishment raised the stakes and made the prospect of happiness seem hopeless. Plan a big disaster at midpoint and you can escape that fate, too.

 

Paul

Edited by paulchernoch

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I say, keep writing for as long as the words keep coming. You can never know in advance, what genius might arise as you go.

Of course, you'll need to be aware of the customary word count for your genre. And no matter the genre, no publisher (or reader) is looking for a 200,000-word epic.

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