For nine months in a row now, I’ve written a novel a month. For those of you who’ve never attempted to write a novel, well, that’s kind of an insane pace. My first novel took over a decade to write. You can read it now right here if you’d like. I think it’s pretty amazing when I look back at it. It grew and evolved in the telling so, so much.
But… now I’m punching out a novel a month? What happened?
Well, The Keeper of Tales is 160,000 words long. That’s epic. Literally. Epic fantasy runs long.
The Madelyn of the Sky novels are roughly 40,000 words long. In print, they’ll come out to about 250 pages each—hardly tiny, but definitely not epic. So, sure, I’m aiming for shorter books, and one of the results is that I can write them far faster.
It’s not just that, though.
Outlining is Your Friend
When I wrote The Keeper of Tales, I had no idea what I was doing—on multiple fronts. For instance, all I had at the beginning was a feel. I wanted the book to feel like the end of The Return of the King. I had no idea who the characters were, what they would do, what the big conflict would be… nothing. I discovered those elements as I wrote.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with writing a book that way. Like I said, I like the novel I ended up with! The problem is that since I had no idea what I was doing, I had to edit, edit, edit like crazy to find the novel in all the words I’d slopped onto the page. At one point I cut the first fifty pages I’d written. Also, at one point, goblins rode velociraptors into battle. It was cool, but not exactly fitting the story.
In contrast to discovering the story as I write it, I now outline ahead. I know what mysteries await the characters, and what their answers are. I’ve already figured out how everything will end, so I’m headed that direction from page one. By the time I’m drafting, I’ve already done the hard work of discovering what the story will be, so I don’t have to uncover it as I go.
Madelyn of the Sky is a six-book series. Madelyn is the main character of each book. Many characters carry over into most or all the other novels. Her older sister Renity appears in many of them. The annoying but charming Peter makes his presence known. Even Carangth, captain of the pirate armada, shows up more than once.
That means that as the series progresses, I already know the characters and know them well. By the time I was drafting book six, everything flew quickly. I knew Madelyn well enough to know how she’d react to this or that. I can throw two characters onto a page, and there’s no pondering about how they’d speak to each other.
The benefit of a series is that I don’t need to wonder who the characters are.
And right now… I simply write faster than I used to. Once, a thousand words a day was a slog. Now if I don’t get a minimum of two thousand words out in an hour, I feel like I’m typing too slowly.
That doesn’t mean I don’t need editing. In the next few weeks I’ll probably explain my editing process. I revise, I get notes from an editor—more than once!–and then I write more. But the rough draft in particular simply flies.
And what that means is… Madelyn of the Sky is a six-book series that’s complete. I’m already halfway done with the next six-book series. (Well, the rough draft, anyway.) So if Madelyn gets funded, we can probably have another six-book series the year after… a little epic called Cade and the Last Starship.
But… Madelyn first!
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