The first 10,000 words

Last night I hit what I consider my first big milestone in this first draft. 10,000 m-fing words!





Okay, confession; I have made it to more than 10,000 words before. Once with a truly terrible Harry Potter fanfic I wrote when I was still in school (as a student, obviously) and once last year with a project I still might finish. But still. For me this is big!


The first chapter - about 3000 words - was quite easy for a number of reasons. Firstly, the new project motivation was in my soul. I was enthusiastic to get those words on paper. Secondly, the project I'm working on is a project I've wanted to write for years! I can't even remember when it first came to me, At least five years ago. It's historical fiction and I've done literally all the research - including finding really old documents sent out to Scottish clan chiefs in the 16-friggin-90's so that I have the exact wording. I've come at that first chapter a million different ways and I knew the scenes I wanted to keep and the things that were just total trash to be left behind forevermore.Writing those first 3000 words was comforting.


But then the doubt set in. "No one will ever want to read this." "You can't write well-developed characters." "Your chapters are too short and there's not enough description to make them interesting." All the old favourites. And the truth is, probably all of those doubts are actually more like facts! The characters probably aren't fully developed and there probably isn't enough description in the scenes. I know for a fact no one will ever read it. It's a damn first draft. No one is reading this thing until these problems are all fixed.


The beat I found most difficult in these first 10k words was "The Setup". I'm conscious I don't want to info dump and I'm working really hard on showing and not telling (I do not have that 100% down yet at all!) and, consequently, I found it kind of awkward to write those scenes. I know that when I edit I'm going to need to include more conflict and a touch more backstory - it is historical fiction after all - and probably rewrite the whole section. While I was writing this, every word was painful. But now that it's done - yeah, it's not fit for human consumption but at least I have something to work with!


After I drafted the setup, it was much easier. I love writing exciting scenes and I feel like I have a really strong inciting incident in this story. Those words were jumping to get out of my mind and onto the page. I feel as though I've built up some momentum now and attacking "The debate" section of my beat-sheet outline was also relatively easy. I've got a touch more of that to work through today.


My concern now is the "break into two". I have a clear midpoint I need to work towards, but the specifics of how I'm getting there and the order of scenes, etc is still a bit of a muddle. I think the best thing to do going forward is to stop at the end of my current chapter and take some time to plan out the next two or three scenes in a bit more detail and work like that moving up to the midpoint. This is where my project last year died a death and I totally lost my way. And I've watched enough Authortube to know that the "Fun and Games" is rarely that for novel writers. But I also know myself really well. I need small, manageable goals. Two or three scenes is more manageable to me than planning IN DETAIL the next half of my book. Shudder.


My big goal for this week is to try and get to 20,000 words - which is obviously slightly more than the 1000 word a day habit I am trying to build. But it's the start of Camp NaNoWriMo tomorrow. Perhaps that will give me a new surge of motivation...



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