Progress report #1 – The story that won’t go away

So this is it! The first update on progress of Smoke born (working title), which is the first part in a young adult fantasy series  I’m working on.

This feels like a book that has to get written. I started a version of it a few years ago and tailed off before I reached the end. A few months ago I started a new (and I thought unrelated) novel only to realise, 20,000 or so words in, that it had come to bear some very strong resemblances to the one I had worked on previously.

So either I don’t have a lot of imagination, or there is something in this story that I’m drawn to, and that I need to work through. I very much hope it’s the latter!

Vital statistics:

I’ve written forty chapters, which is 79,582 words. So far, it’s all third person POV following the main character, but I think that to tell the story I’m going to need to introduce a couple of other point of view characters. Yikes, more words! So I really feel like I still have a long way to go but then I expect I will lose a lot (especially from the early sections – what did I think I was doing??) in the edit, so not too worried about length. Or to be more accurate, I’m trying not to panic about it.

I have one big problem. Lack of uninterrupted time. I have a one year old baby, a job, a partner who for some reason likes to talk to me, etc. etc. So my solution to this problem has been to claim chunks of time to just write. Most days I write around 1000 words a day on the novel, and I feel pretty happy with that. In periods where sleep or other things aren’t going so well, if I can make it to at least 400 words a day (which I pretty much always can do no matter what’s going on around me) I know I can keep the story ticking over.

What I haven’t done so much of is the planning/research/worldbuilding side of things. Which is a shame because I really enjoy that stuff. If I had the chance I’d spend months just doing the planning/research/worldbuilding. The joy!

In fact, not doing it is an experiment in method for me. I’ve been following the story of the main character, Raven, and the worldbuilding is mostly happening as I write.

Recently I’ve started implementing ‘worldbuilding weekends’ every fortnight or so, where I put my word count on hold for a couple of days and focus on some of the background stuff that I need to think about. I feel like that’s working well. So it’s a kind of back and forth process, the writing informs the world which informs the writing.

The down side to this is that I’m going to have a lot of re-working and stitching together to do in subsequent drafts. I’m starting to wonder whether the approach I’ve taken just gives me an illusion of efficiency, and whether I’d have been better off taking the time to think through more of the details before I started, but at least this way I know the story is getting written.

So that’s a very broad overview of where the work’s at and some stuff about my writing process. Next progress report I’ll get into a bit more of the story and world detail.

If there are any other worldbuilding pantsers out there I’d be really interested to hear more about how this approach has worked for you.


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