Princess of Shadows is at 127,000 words. That’s after couple of minor restarts on a particular scene, some moderate floundering, and a small amount of despair. Actually, fairly large globules of despair, but that’s not unusual. There was also some time off doodling on Dinosaur Planet (another episode coming soon), and even a few hundred words on Princess of Fire, which probably won’t even see the light of day for a year after I finish Shadows.
With most of my stories and novels, to some extent or another I’m making it up as I go. The days when I planned out stories and wrote out elaborate histories and backgrounds and dissertations on economics and social patterns mostly belong to the period of my life I spent far more time planning to write than actually writing. To a certain extent with my actual work I have tended to wing it, try to fix it in the re-write, and pray that I’ve achieved some degree of consistency in the end. I have been making notes on the background for Kathy’s stories, largely because there is so much ground to cover with this whole world I’ve created, and because I want to be able to breathe some life into its details.
But I don’t think I have ever had to wing it quite so thoroughly as with Shadows. And more than once this has forced me to back up, rethink something I have just written, and then rip it out and start over. As the probable final size of this novel keeps climbing (160,000 words? 170,00?) I have been wondering if I would ever actually finish it (that’s where the despair part came in).
The last few days, however, I seem to have come to a slightly different understanding of what has been going on. With Shadows I embarked on what I knew would be a big book, with a cast of thousands and novel situations for Kathy fall into. In this instance, not planning everything beforehand has meant that, not only am I trying to create a believable non-Western society on the fly, but I am essentially meeting a bunch of important characters for the first time and coming to understand them as I write them. And that is a large part of why I have had to start major sequences over again, as the characters took off in directions I didn’t expect. Dragon, Mother Sun, Scar, Dahlia and Cloud are all different people than I initially pictured them (hell, Cloud started out as male and is now female).
And in the process of realizing that, I seem to have taken some encouragement– I’ve just met these folks, and it’s going to take a second draft to get them and their world all down right anyway (some of the important details of the village Kathy stumbles into are now obvious to me only after I’ve written my way past where I need to put them), so I might as well just write and tell my inner censor to go hell (nitpicky little bastard).
At this point, I have at least three major sequences left to do. Thirty thousand more words? I don’t know, but I’m (tentatively) feeling a little more hopeful than I have in a while. Just don’t sneeze.