Think of a company of men– soldiers or explorers, perhaps. They are trapped in some nightmare country which is covered in darkness, and they struggle through a chaotic landscape, not even sure if they have a goal, much less in which direction in the featureless dark it may lie– and then, slowly, they see a gleam beyond a line of broken hills, and realize it is the dawn.
That’s how I feel at the moment about Princess of Fire.
The book is now at 120,000 words, and in the last couple of days I have come to the growing realization, as I sometimes do with a draft, that I am within striking distance of completing it. My best guess is that two or three chapters, 15,000 to 20,000 words, will do the job.
I am not out of the nightmare country yet– but dawn glimmers.
If I can stay focused, I should be able to finish the first draft before the end of the month. I say should be able to, because I hesitate to make a definite pronouncement– all my definite pronouncements about this book have been, over and over again, wrong, wrong, wrong. Even my commitment to do a minimum of 500 words a day failed– I did some math, and from October last year through the end of January I averaged a pathetic 216 words a day on this book– less than a single double-spaced page with one inch margins, if you put it in old-school manuscript terms. The book has come in spurts and surges, with long gaps in between of ennui and depression and spending time on other projects.
But 20,000 words– to engage in some un-typical self-praise (I won’t do it again, I promise), I can do 20,000 words, even 20,000 words that make sense, in very short order. Being this close, in fact, creates the additional motivation that it would be a shame not to complete the draft, seeing as how I’m this close.
Finishing the first draft, of course, will only be the end of the beginning. When the draft is complete, the hard work of straightening out the narrative and filling plot holes, cutting unneeded bits, correcting names and timelines and characters, and fleshing out action (a 140,000 word novel that may need fleshing out. Oh, let me think about that one…) will begin. But, as I have mentioned in previous posts, a complete fist draft is the one critical mental milestone I personally have to reach to ensure that I will carry a novel to final draft status. It is the sine qua non— “without which, not”– of my writing process. There’s a reason why I date-stamp my novels with the date I finish their first draft.
So– back to work for me. When– not if, God willing, but when– I finish this draft, I am definitely throwing a party. Even if it’s just a bag of Cheetos and a slice of pizza, I will be celebrating. I will keep you posted.