All right, I have promised to give you a post detailing SOME of what's going on with this Ridiculously Huge Project of mine. So this is that post! I hope you'll enjoy it.
During this period of (not by preference) leaving Goldstone Wood alone for the time being, I really needed something absolutely fantastic and gripping into which I might throw my creative efforts. I had already been brainstorming an interesting concept with Rohan, and when the time came to make that difficult decision to set Poison Crown aside, I had this idea already in the background. Pulling it forward and dusting it off, I gave it another thorough look and decided I liked what I saw.
First thing's first: Why is it called The Ridiculously Huge Project?
Because it is twelve books long.
Well, that's not so very different from what I've been doing already with Goldstone Wood (which is planned at fifteen books, innumerable novellas, and at least two potential spin-off series). So why is THIS project Ridiculously Huge?
Because I'm trying to write all twelve books in one year.
Let me clarify: I am trying to write twelve rough drafts in one year. These drafts are all supposed to between 50,000 and 60,000 words long, so not as big as a polished book. (The polished books should each be between 80,000 and 100,000 words long.) Still, there are twelve of them, so it's a bit intimidating.
The idea, however, is to have all twelve rough drafts complete before I go back and begin polishing the earlier books. That way, as I'm doing polished drafts, I know exactly what needs to go in each book so that story lines and character arcs all naturally lead from one book to the next. The hope is to spend no more than a month or so polishing each manuscript, so that in the long run--let's say two and a half years from now--I might have twelve decently polished manuscripts.
Is this doable? I don't know. This whole thing is a great big (and somewhat ridiculous) experiment. However, I think it might actually just be possible to do it. And you know what? I'll never know until I try . . .
How am I going to go about making something like this doable? Well, I have certain rules that I am following as I conduct this experiment:
Rule 1: Create solid outlines for each story. Actually, I've already done that. All twelve stories are outlined in significant detail so that story lines and character arcs all point in the right direction. I didn't begin writing Book 1 before I knew what was going to happen at the end of Book 12.
Rule 2: I'm giving myself approximately 15 writing days to finish each draft. That's three work weeks (I don't write on the weekends). If at the end of day 12 I'm nowhere near the climax and resolution, I will summarize the in-between material and write the climax and resolution. That way--though very, VERY rough--I still have a complete rough draft of each story at the end of 15 work days.
Rule 3: I'm not allowing myself to reread material as I go along. I'm allowed to reference the outlines and notes as much as I need, but no going back and fiddling with earlier portions of the manuscript or earlier books either. This would slow me down and defeat the whole purpose of this experiment, which is to have 12 rough drafts at the end of a year. This rule is a bit hard to follow . . . and I have broken it a TINY bit here and there, rereading small portions. But I don't allow for revisions as I go.
The idea is that, allowing for blah-days when the words just won't come, sick days, unforeseen interruptions, etc. I can still get at least one full draft done each month. Again, is this truly possible? I don't know. But so far, I'm on track to finish a draft of book 2 by the end of this month, so I'm feeling pretty good about it.
Here are some things that I have discovered while writing the first book and a half of The Ridiculously Huge Project.
Discovery 1: I cannot consistently write 5,000 words a day. I CAN consistently write 4,000 words a day. But just 1,000 more, and I'm too tired at day's end to function. Can't do anything. Can't smile at my husband. Can't take the dog for a run. Can't make dinner. Can't really do anything except sit around going, "Mehhhh."
Now the occasional 5,000 word day is not a problem. My record is 9,000 in a single day, which I was able to do when the inspiration was REALLY keen. On similarly inspired days, 5,000 words is completely doable.
I'm talking about a regular work day. Sitting down and working normal hours on ordinary, everyday sort of inspiration. When the Muse is absent and I am simply doing my job. Which is, to be honest, what most days are.
So yeah . . . I've learned I cannot expect extraordinary word count on an ordinary work day. If I have those bursts of more than 4,000 words, then great. Otherwise, I am planning the whole project around the understanding that 4,000 words is my average.
Discovery 2: I find it very hard not to go back and reread what I've done the previous day. HOWEVER, when trying to write twelve rough drafts in a single year, it's important to NOT go back and look at what I've done the previous day. Period. I have a solid outline which I am allowed to check and even tweak as I go along to keep me relatively in line. Otherwise, when I sit down to work, there's no recapping allowed. I simply have to make NEW WORDS HAPPEN.
The result is a pretty hodge podge by the end of the draft. I decided partway through Book 1 that I needed one character to go from being a pious elderly priest to being a lecherous peasant farmer instead. So in the first chapter in which this character is introduced, he is an pious elderly priest. Several chapters later, the same character is now a lecherous peasant farmer. It doesn't make for very smooth reading, but I AM NOT ALLOWED TO GO BACK AND ALTER MY DRAFT. I have to keep going.
Because, really, you know what? Why should I bother polishing and refining a rough draft? I might change my mind again later on, and that lecherous peasant farmer might suddenly need to be a pious elderly priest again. Or a milkmaid. Or an acrobat . . . I don't know! It's a rough draft.
And it will ALL get polished out in the SECOND draft. Along with all the other inconsistencies, big and small. But if I stop now and try to make everything perfect . . . well, by the time I'm drafting book 6, I might come across a new premise that necessitates going back and doing another rewrite on book 1. I'd rather save myself the trouble.
Is this how I've written before? No, indeed. I tend to be a polish-as-I-go sort. But this is inefficient writing, usually obliging me to polish the same scene several times over when, if I had simply pushed on and discovered everything I needed to BEFORE going back to rewrite, I would have saved myself time and effort.
Ultimately, the goal is to have twelve beautifully POLISHED manuscripts in as few drafts (and as little time) as possible. Thus the great experiment that is The Ridiculously Huge Project.
Discovery 3: It's HARD to write in a whole new world! No Faerie Paths. No Wood Between. No Lumé and Hymlumé, no Southlands or Parumvir, no Eanrin, no Sphere Songs . . . I'm in unfamiliar territory, and it's very strange indeed.
I hadn't realized until starting this project how much I depended on knowing my world so thoroughly. I haven't had to invent an entire new world and new magic system before, not to mention a new history, new societies, etc. I keep waffling back and forth between setting these books in an alternate history version of our world or creating a new fantasy world of my own. Still haven't decided. I'm rough drafting both ways to see what I like and what suits the stories best. Leaning toward alternate history right now, but we'll see what happens.
So, yeah. There's tremendous amounts of invention that I've not had to deal with while writing Goldstone Wood books. So much from-the-ground-up creation. It's weird. It's also kind of cool. While I've lost the safety of a familiar world, I've also lost any restrictions. Particularly while doing these crazy rough drafts! The sky is the limit, and I can seriously do whatever I want.
Not having specific boundaries is a struggle all its own, however. I'm finding that the more I solidify the world and refine the details, the more fun I'm having with the actual drafting. It's all a great stretch for the imagination.
And I keep experiencing weird sensations of "disloyalty." Like I'm cheating on Goldstone Wood with another series. And sometimes, I'm actually resentful at this project . . . which is unfair, because it can't help not being Goldstone Wood, and it really does have its own fine qualities to offer up.
And there you have it, dear readers. The Ridiculously Huge Project in a nutshell.
Leaving out all revelation of plot and characters, of course.
But they're coming. I'm still learning them myself right now, so I definitely don't feel ready to introduce them to all of you. Maybe in a few months. Maybe next year.
Each month, however, I will be including little tidbits about research and writing details in the ongoing Doings at Drakenheath posts, so you can keep an eye on those if you are curious.
This should also give you a pretty good idea why I'm not posting on this blog as much and have officially taken at least a month off of Facebook (Rohan changed my password, so I can't get on even if I want to!). I'm fairly well swallowed in this project all day, every day, and rather expect to be swallowed for months to come. I am enjoying this period of intense creativity.
Well, enjoying might be the wrong word. It's hard work. Very hard work indeed, and I'm pretty tired a lot of the time while doing it. And the beginning stages of a huge endeavor are always the hardest. Right now, even the halfway point is beyond the far horizon, and that can be a bit discouraging if I allow myself to think about it.
So, one book at a time. One day at a time. But with big goals and big dreams always in mind. And we'll see what this turns into . . .