Hello, March! You snuck up on me this year. With the beginning of a new month, I have the excitement of a fresh start (even if it’s just psychological). So I’m feeling optimistic right now, even with no good reason why. This past week in writing started off really well, then I got stumped again. But I’m pretty sure I know why I got stumped (which I’ll go into in more detail in the section Reading Whilst Writing).
This week’s Novel Progress is not really a progress update, although I did make some progress (which I’ll probably share next week
if when I’ve written more!). Rather in this post I want to talk about: 1) why I’ve been reading while I’ve been trying to write, 2) a new deadline, 3) some notes on my series trajectory, and 4) plans for Camp NaNoWriMo this April. So grab a mug of coffee, or tea, and get comfortable, because this post might be a bit of a doozy!
Reading Whilst Writing
If you follow me on Goodreads, you probably already know I’ve been reading The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. This is a book I loved in middle school and has always been a major influence (in the back of my mind) on the type story I wanted to write. Having been rereading the novel for the first time in what is almost 10 years, I’ve realized how little I actually remembered of the book! So it’s been really refreshing to jump back into this story and be able to appreciate more than just what I had remembered.
The reason I originally wanted to reread this book was in the hopes it would help me develop my own magic system. Mine has not been set in stone, but I really like the idea of the magician’s apprentice and my own system is slightly modeled upon that. But in rereading this book, I’m happy/relieved to say that that’s about where the similarity ends. Nevertheless, I’ve really found other parts of this novel really helpful in bringing my own plot ideas to life. And this is why I think my own writing progress has been slowed down.
I’m reading this book slower than I’d ordinarily prefer, partially because I’ve been battling allergies (and school) but also because I am analyzing why I find elements of this novel particularly effective. I’ve been able to identify things I don’t like about this novel, like the slowness of the beginning and more action-packed scenes (because I personally don’t love long action-scenes). But things I really like are the world-building, the scene-setting, the complex character relationships, the humor (although I don’t see myself writing a character as fun as Bartimaeus!), and the balance between the personal and the greater world conflict.
So reading whilst I’ve been trying to write has slowed me down, but I choose to believe it’s for a good purpose. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice that I’ve come across is to read everything within the genre you want to write. This is not so that you can steal all your favorite ideas and paste them all together (as I gather Victoria Aveyard has done with Red Queen and which I find kind of despicable), but so that you know the nuances of what has been done before and hopefully innovate and contribute meaningfully to the genre in a way that only you can.
I’m still aiming to have rough overview of my entire novel figured out by April 1st, but I’ve come to realization that given my writing pace (some days I only write 200 words, others I manage about 1,000) this draft will not be satisfactorily “complete” by April. By my calculation, I’m thinking I that to officially finish my first draft, I will need around 90,000 words, if not more. Which is why I’m now aiming for that word count goal for my first draft by June 1st. (April 1st is now more of a deadline by which I hope to finalize the plot.)
That’s almost exactly the half-way point of the year, which means I’ll have the rest of the year to edit and revise. By November, I hopefully could even start working on the second book which might even help while I edit the first book. At this point, I’m certain this will be a series. I’m also certain I would like to begin querying this novel next year, and I’ve always felt like I would want to have more than one book written before I do that. Especially given that this is a series. If I can find a publisher for this series, I’d want to make sure I could have a new book out every year (without it being a rushed job).
One thing I realize I haven’t really talked about is the series trajectory for my story. That’s partially because I’ve not been able to think much past this one novel, but also because I have no ideas that are set in stone and don’t even know for sure how many books there would need to be. All my plot ideas are very fluid and I have a whole page in my Scrivener document where I can see all the potential books + bullet-point lists of things to happen, and I’m always moving things around. Nevertheless, I thought I’d finally share some of the general ideas I’ve had for a while.
I like the idea of in each book seeing my female protagonist be another year older, very much as happens in Harry Potter. I’d like readers to be able to grow up with my protagonist and see her “face typical teenage problems” on top of “saving the world.” In the first novel you will see her at age 13, and I’m thinking I’d like to end the series with her at 18, so that will make the series either five or six books long. (I do want to note that I don’t see myself “dumbing down” the story, or catering to a specific age group, because of my protagonist’s age. I want all ages to be able to enjoy the books. All the major characters range in age anyway.)
You might be wondering if I have enough to drag out the story that long. (I’ve wondered that myself.) But I’ve decided I definitely think it’s possible. My world is vast, the conflict complex, and I have a lot of different characters with which I want to play. Also, I don’t see each novel’s focus being protagonist and antagonist in constant battle. I see my protagonist grappling with multiple issues (and roadblocks), only complicated by her destiny. Also, I really want to have time spend more time with the antagonist. So I’m thinking I’m not going to get bored!
I have not wanted to jump down into the rabbit hole that is The Mortal Instruments/The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare, but I love the idea of writing multiple books belonging to the same world. Diana Wynne Jones did this to an extent. And Leigh Bardugo is doing a similar thing right now with her new Six of Crows series being set in the same world as her debut Grisha trilogy. I think if you create a really unique world, you don’t ever really have to leave it if you don’t want to.
Camp NaNoWriMo (April)
I am thinking of doing some iteration of Camp NaNoWriMo this April. If I stay committed, I might have between 25,000 & 30,000 words complete by April 1st, which might consist mostly of words in the beginning and end of my novel as I’m prioritizing those sections at the moment. But I should essentially know everything that needs to happen in the story and be able to have fun connecting storylines. So Camp NaNoWriMo might be great motivator to keep up my progress.
I don’t know yet if I will want to aim for 50,000 words or set something more manageable (like 30,000 words). I do think I’d like to start trying to vlog on YouTube around this time with weekly, or possibly even daily, progress reports and motivational videos. I think it could be really fun and hopefully help me connect with more even more writers than are able to find this blog.
I’m really hoping to write a lot more this month. I have a dry-erase calendar board with little green boxes on the days I hope to write at least 1,000 words this month (mostly Thursday–Sunday each week). I have spring break to look forward to in two weeks, but I think I’ll have enough going on that week that won’t allow me to write much more than usual (just being realistic). Nevertheless,
I think I’m planning to write more than I have over January & February combined!
I hoped you enjoyed this week’s installment of Novel Progress. Let me know in the comments what you might want to see me talk more of in the future or if you want me to elaborate on anything I mentioned here. I’m hoping to start posting more on Ink Keys and Other Things beyond Novel Progress posts, so whether that be more topic-based writing posts (i.e. the seven-point plot structure I use or the cut-up technique as relates to writing) or opinion pieces (sample topics being subscription boxes and feminist book clubs). Let me know if there’s anything specifically you might want to see.