Writing About Deadlines

Two weeks remain until World Fantasy in Columbus, and while I’m not as close to finishing the first draft as I’d like at this point, the accompanying synopsis/outline is nearly complete.

Each novel requires its own process, and I’m normally an organic writer. I start at the beginning and move forward, letting the story take me where it will. I normally know the climax, so I’ve got an end point I want to reach. And there’s normally a particular theme/idea I want to communicate. But I’ve always felt my plotting suffers with this method. There’s a lot more rewriting involved to layer in foreshadowing. The first book that I completed* I used a technique where I would map out the next few chapters, so it wasn’t truly organic and freewheeling. That book took about 18 months to complete from start to finish. The second book** that I completed (actually the fifth that I attempted) took a little less than three years. Sacrifices / Into Dust Descend first took form in November 2008. Two years seems too long.

I convinced myself before this novel that writing an outline or synopsis would stunt my creative process. Why would I want to write the book if I’ve already told everything in the synopsis or outline? Except … these are tools and if you’re going to become a professional writer you need to know how to use all your tools. The writing group to which I belong includes several published authors, and they’ll regularly submit a synopsis or outline to the group, along with the first three chapters. Since they’re represented by agents, they don’t write a novel from start to finish unless it’s under contract. The first three chapters and synopsis are used as proposals between them, their agent and their publisher(s) to guarantee everyone works on something that will reaches publication.

So slow progress isn’t necessarily a bad thing on this book, because I learned something useful. And I’m confident I can set a new deadline. Ten to eleven weeks looks like a good estimate for a finish time once I put the last touches on the final chapters today. I’m looking at somewhere between 100,000-120,000 words if my first chapters and planned chapters are any indication.

No matter the length or the actual date on which I get to write “the end” I’m going to consider this work a success because I’m able to move forward after writing a synopsis before I wrote the book. It’s a nice accomplishment, as good as completing the actual book. I’d like to report in a few months that it’s done and only took 24-25 months rather than nearly 36 months.


* Side Effects
** Only The Dead

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About stephenwnagy

writer, father, husband. not necessarily in that order.
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