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First book currently at 200k words - how to get to finish line, writing group

Josh K

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Feb 7, 2019
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6
First post on here. Thought I'd do a bit of forum searching as I'm finally getting close to my first draft being done. I'm guessing it will be done by about 250k words, and it is epic fantasy, but this is my first novel so I know I can't publish it as is.

I'm just hoping for some tips and tricks, maybe resources to get me going to get this book from first draft to ready for publication. The novel follows 2 main characters, sticking almost completely to their viewpoints. My magic system is very much based in science, and to be honest I like how it is quite a bit so far, though it needs a few tweaks. The setting is fairly typical fantasy setting, both characters around 17 years old and starting to make their way in the world. Something bad happens and they end up having to fend for themselves. There are a lot of races and cultures, as well as many mysteries in the book. I think it is a good framework on the whole, but it still needs work.

As for drafts, I am thinking that draft two will end up increasing the size of the book, as I realized while writing it that I missed a ton of little things to make the world more rich. Essentially, I didn't have a clear enough understanding of the world, my characters, and the plot, and because of that everything is a bit lacking in details, or the character interactions aren't quite how I want them. Hence, I'm planning to spend a month on world building, character building, etc, and then only after that do the second draft. My expectation is to have draft 1 finished by late Feb/early March, world building done by april, then draft two done by June or July.

I'm also hoping to find a group of individuals that I can work with - serious writers who are also trying to get published. I would like to be able to give and get feedback on writing, as I want to become a better writer, and I feel like I'm living in a vacuum right now. I have had little to no input on what I've written, and I'm worried that what I have done so far isn't good. I think it's decent, that the ideas are there, the writing is mostly solid, and the characters are okay, but I really don't know. I think a writing group would really help me get to the next level so I could publish something great. Or, worst case, it would help me get this book finished and then try for something shorter that a publisher will actually want to publish
 

Teresa Edgerton

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If you live anywhere near a large metropolitan area, it's possible that if you look around you (ask at your local library, etc. you will find there are one or more good writer's groups within a reasonable distance of where you live, maybe even one that focuses on science fiction and fantasy. Or, with a little research (Googling, asking questions on forums like this one—you've made a good start by joining here)you might find an online writer's group that looks like it will be helpful to you.

Also, if there are local SFF conventions, which you can also find out online, if you go you may meet like-minded writers. Go to panels on writing, see who speaks up and mentions a group that they know of or belong to, and then approach them for more information after the panel.

Many years ago I connected with a local writer's group in that way, and it was probably one of the best things I ever did in my life. I joined a great, supportive, knowledgeable group of aspiring writers, who were determined to keep learning and improving. I learned so much from them and also made some wonderful friendships.

In time, you might want to look for a developmental editor, but joining a writer's group is, in my opinion, usually the best first step, and won't cost you anything.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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blah - flags. So many flags.
Slow down! You have a first draft with no feedback on it - there is still a road ahead. :) here will help loads - critiques can be really helpful - and as you get to know people they may well be prepared to beta read. If not, as Teresa says, most cities or many libraries have writing groups. Network and get to know the local writing community.

Where are you based?
 

Josh K

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Feb 7, 2019
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6
I'm around the indianapolis area, though not in the city itself. I could probably look there specifically, though I'm not sure I want to be driving so far to do a writing group. Working full time and writing is already quite a lot.

I would be open to beta reading. I am very experienced with fantasy in particular, so I have no doubt I could give good feedback on that genre. How difficult is it to get into beta reading for others?
 

Kerrybuchanan

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Having been almost exactly where you are at present, I'd advise you to take part in the forums here, especially reading the critiques and critiquing here until you've accumulated enough posts to put your own piece up for crit. Then put the opening paragraphs up and see what people say. It can be hard to find critique partners until folks get to know you a little better, especially your writing style and ability.

Many of us have found friendship and support through informal writing groups made up of other Chrons members over the years, and the group I have been a part of has been invaluable in improving my writing.

You might be lucky and have someone step forward with an offer to read some of your work for you. If so, it's polite to offer a reciprocal arrangement where you swap pieces. Sometimes this leads to an ongoing arrangement, sometimes it doesn't.

But get reading those critiques and see how much you can learn from that! Good luck.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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blah - flags. So many flags.
I'm around the indianapolis area, though not in the city itself. I could probably look there specifically, though I'm not sure I want to be driving so far to do a writing group. Working full time and writing is already quite a lot.

I would be open to beta reading. I am very experienced with fantasy in particular, so I have no doubt I could give good feedback on that genre. How difficult is it to get into beta reading for others?
For me, I started with crits here and got to know those in there, including others who are looking for crits (recipricity is important). Then, once they knew I didn't throw dummies from the pram and was reasonably competent, I joined a virtual writing group made up from 4 Chronners. We did everything electronically and it worked very well for a long time, until lives got too busy!
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I'm around the indianapolis area, though not in the city itself. I could probably look there specifically, though I'm not sure I want to be driving so far to do a writing group.

The nice thing about living in the general vicinity of a big American city is that there are generally a lot of suburbs around them. You might find that there are a couple of groups out in your direction. But first you need to get into contact with the reading and writing community in your area.

There is a three-day SFF convention held in Indianapolis every summer, so I imagine there is a pretty large fantasy community in the area all year 'round. It might take a bit of looking to ferret them out (see if there is a specialty SFF bookstore in the area, SFF clubs, etc.) but consider the time spent an investment that could pay off in all kinds of ways in the long run.

You say that you feel like you are living in a vacuum now, and I remember that feeling well, even though I had friends who shared related interests, I had no writer friends at the time and I felt real pain over that. I started going to conventions, and while nothing happened right away, on the last day of a three day convention I went to an afternoon panel, raised my hand to ask a question (I hate speaking up in public, so it was a very hard thing for me to do), and it literally changed my life.

These days, of course, there are online groups like this one, and as Kerry suggests there is a lot to be gained by participation here.
 

sknox

Member and remember
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Another place to look is at NaNoWriMo. Not to participate, but you will find writing groups specific to your area through there. I figure if Boise, Idaho has such a group, Indianapolis probably has one or more. Same goes for Facebook. In fact, just try this
indianapolis writing group fantasy
on Google.

Jo's point about reciprocity is important. You want someone to read your 200k? Then you have to be willing to invest the same amount of time reading *their* 200k. That is non-trivial, but I recommend it because one learns a great deal about one's own writing while critiquing the writing of others.
 

Josh K

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Feb 7, 2019
Messages
6
Yea I'd be happy to help with someone's 200k if they help with mine :). I just started one of the last scenes for one of my arcs (super gripping and intense, i started crying cause of what was gona happen to one of my chars). Anyways, once I get done with this draft I think my time will open up. I've been mostly putting all my resources into actually getting the words to page these last few months. I started writing this book in october (except like the first 20 pages) so it's been a very intense 4 months. I should be done by end of february - maybe sooner. It depends on how the endings go. I expect to be max 250k when done.

I'll do a bit more digging and see if I can find anything local, though.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
250k in 6 months without editing time and space? I’d be wary of letting anyone near that yet - that’s going to be a very drafty first draft. Beta readers aren’t easy to come by - you want something reasonably polished.

If it were me I’d start with critiques and find out how much work (or how little :)) needs doing first :)
 

Susan Boulton

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I would advise that you finish it, then set aside the main manuscript for a couple of months. Work on something else, or do something totally different with your time. During this time you can look around for a local or online writing group. Get to know them, read or exchange small pieces of writing for critique. This does not have to be your manuscript.Then, after a period of time take out your manuscript and go through it slowly. You will find that you will make changes, alter scenes, even remove them, and characters. After that start the process of getting larger sections of the manuscript critiqued, or beta read. Then repeat. Put aside. Take out. Once you feel you have a strong enough manuscript, I would look into paying a professional editor for a development edit. Work on his or her suggestions. Put aside. Work on you grammar and construction. Work on your submission pitch, letter, synopsis etc. Then start researching publishers and agents.
 

Kerrybuchanan

Delusions of Grammar
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I agree with @Jo Zebedee and @Susan Boulton. Finish it first, then walk away for a while. Leaving it for a couple of months and thinking of something else will be one of the hardest things for you to do after you have lived and breathed it for four months (I know, because I did exactly the same thing, but in my case it was 130k in 6 weeks). It might be hard to accept, but I can guarantee that you won't get the distance you need if you go straight back into it, and you should be careful of squandering precious readers on a first draft.

Best advice would be to use the period to critique others' work here on Chrons or elsewhere, which will help you get your head into the editing frame of mind you'll need. Once you've learned to spot common errors or stylistic dodginess in others, you'll be amazed how many similar faults you find in your own work, when you get back to it.

But congratulations on getting so close to the finish! 250k is some achievement, and you should be proud. That's a lot of words to edit, though, so don't rush it.
 

Phyrebrat

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250k in 6 months without editing time and space? I’d be wary of letting anyone near that yet - that’s going to be a very drafty first draft. Beta readers aren’t easy to come by - you want something reasonably polished.

If it were me I’d start with critiques and find out how much work (or how little :)) needs doing first :)
As Jo’s said, be wary of sharing that draft! I’m a meddler when it comes to my writing; I constantly re-read earlier passages and chapters to refresh my memory which also makes me edit them. Not everyone works this way but it helps orient my creative mind before I recommence writing. It also means I tinker and improve my draft as I’m writing. Even with that said, I’d never pass 200k/6 months on to a beta.

If you follow the oft-quoted target of aiming to slash 10% of your word count on the first few edits, you’re going to be a way away from being ready to share.

I would advise that you finish it, then set aside the main manuscript for a couple of months. Work on something else, or do something totally different with your time.
This is the most crucial advice imo because all the ease/success you have in line and developmental editing later will be augmented by you being able to read your work with fresh eyes. You’ll be able to be more objective and things will jump out, eg:

You have a thread where xyz happens; you’ve written it off the top of your head. You’ve perhaps not fleshed it out as much as the other plans because its inspiration came to you on the fly as you wrote. As you progress you forget your intentions for this side thread/detail and it becomes redundant or even confusing with the benefit of distance.

The above scenario may seem unlikely to you but you’d be surprised I think. It could be (eg) something as simple as you giving a character an apple for some noted reason you later forget, or it could be the underpinning motivation for your storyline’s war etc. These narrative gremlins have a habit of finding their way into your work

Whatever, it’s important to give yourself distance. I’m actually looking forward to putting my wip aside for at least 6 months when I finish draft 1.

But most of all: the loudest congratulations to you! 200k (and in six months!!) is a truly great achievement and you’ve really already accomplished the biggest challenge.

pH
 

Josh K

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Feb 7, 2019
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6
Hey everyone, thank you for the replies. I was actually planning my month+ of brainstorming to be my 'break' from writing the book, as I don't plan to touch it at all during that month+. It sounds like you are suggesting i take a slightly different approach and just drop it for a while altogether. Maybe what I'll do is spend 2-3 weeks brainstorming, a couple weeks on break, and then 2-3 more weeks brainstorming. We'll see how the timing goes but I would like to brainstorm right after the first draft is done, so I get all of the things I know I want worked on, in. After that, I'm very flexible on what I do and maybe I'll spend a lot of time critiquing others' work.

I have noticed passages just as Phyrebat describes - I had inspiration and wrote it, but I didn't have any idea where I was going with it. I think in some cases those worked, and in others they were a dead end and could be cut. I don't feel any particular attachment to most parts of my story, except specific scenes that I also intended to build up to. I do think I may have to tone the story down a bit with one character arc because it gets very intense from a relationship standpoint. Think "The Magicians" and you'll likely have an idea of what I tried to do, though it's definitely not completely the same.

As for editing my work during drafting, I've actually been taking different approaches as I've become more experienced. I started (first 20 pages) writing the book and heavily editing it. That failed miserably. I then just tried to push through writing, getting everything to the page and trying to ignore edits, even if they were glaring. Finally, I've gotten to the point where I'll write a page or two, take a break to walk, then come back and read through those one-two pages and edit. I find doing these small edits not only cleans up the work a lot but it gets me moving into the next section. Doing this, I write typically 1k words/hr, though that can deviate between 500-2k/hr.

I have another project in mind that is a YA that I'm going to set in medieval times if I want to set this book aside for a bit - think the jim butcher books but with a very different setting. I'm considering trying to get these published first, as no one is going to want to publish my behemoth of a novel as a debut author until I've got some experience under my belt. I was also thinking I could put these books into the same world but with a different race on my world - I think this would be a very interesting approach and I could even add some nesteggs and ping-pong this series with my main epic fantasy. These books would be nice for getting readers into my world, and then they could go on from that to my epic fantasy. I would of course make these books shorter - 50-100k words, so they should only take a couple months to write a first draft. I also may not use my current setting, as I was considering making these books very over the top with magic - so come up with crazy things and the character is in a mad dash not to get crushed, destroyed, incinerated, you name it. I will have to think on that part of things.
 

Dan Jones

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I'd echo what has been said upstairs - 200k in 6 months to me shouts "here be monsters" - even if you do have some excellent writing chops there's bound to be more flab and errors and excess in there than you realise, and there's no reason to think that subsequent drafts - even if you add further text - couldn't actually be shorter, with some clever editing.

I write similarly to Phyrebrat in that I edit very heavily as I go, and will return to earlier sections and excise / revise them in the middle of drafting if I realise there are continuity errors or whatever, so while a finished manuscript may take me some time, it tends to have a greater amount of polish. It will still require further work but it tends to be in an acceptable state to pass to a beta reader or someone for critique.

Others will work differently and prefer to hammer out their first draft as quickly as possible to have a straw man, and then knock it into shape with a second or third draft. Sounds like you fall in the latter category. 1,000 words in an hour? Sheesh, that's some pretty fast writing. But I bet you it won't make it into the final edit!

But whichever technique you use, do take some time - a few weeks, usually - between drafts, so you're attacking it with fresher eyes, where you're more likely to pick up on errors and excess flab.

And yes, as Teresa and others have said, you must - you must - leave the house and meet up with other, real humans. Writing need not be the isolationist pursuit it seems to be! You'll learn more - and get to know many interesting and useful people - by talking to them in real life, so do try and find some like-minded folk in your neck of the woods.

Good luck, squire!
 

zmunkz

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Welcome, and congrats on nearing that milestone! I also joined online communities at about the same point in my first book, and benefited from a few very helpful (hopefully mutually so) workshop/crit exchanges with other fledgling authors in similar shoes.

As exciting as writing was, once I started getting feedback I really started to bloom as a writer. That’s the good news. Bad news is, most likely, you have a further road ahead that you night expect. I remember thinking some feedback and one good rewrite would be all I needed to broach the topic of publishing. Didn’t know what I didn’t know! I say that not to discourage but just to set expectations so you can keep your eye on the goal.

I’m working on a new book at this point, but I’m a couple months behind you. Otherwise, I’d love to do a crit exchange. I love epic fantasy, especially the heavy ones at 200k+ words.
 

Josh K

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Feb 7, 2019
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Zmunz, if you would like to do a crit review exchange it shouldn't be an issue to modify my schedule. One of the things I was thinking about today is that this first draft was an amazing learning experience for me. It taught me that I could write a full-length novel, and considering the length, I am now confident I can write anything I want.

However, I also realized today that a second draft may be more critical to my learning how to write than a first. Where the first gave me confidence that I could do it, in the second draft I'll learn to do it well. I'm hoping to spend some time reading well-written prose, like the works from ruthfoss, and really delving deeply into my scenes. It is the second draft where I'll learn more about the art of writing and what I can do as a writer, and I wouldn't be shocked at all if draft 2 takes me just as long as the first. There are many scenes I want to make more visceral and real, scenes that when I wrote them I knew I could make them much more impactful, but due to my need to keep moving forward I held off. There are many scenes where I knew the character interactions weren't quite right, but I held off on fixing them to get to the finish line. Long story short, I don't think it will be an issue to do an exchange of stories when you're ready for it.

Furthermore, I plan to start working on a YA novel once this novel is complete. I will be finishing this current series in the future, but I realize that I'll need something else published first before I can get this one out. Instead of wasting my time trying to get this published, likely at 200k words, I'll get my other novel done and push that one first while this one sits on the back burner.

So, if you'd like to do some kind of online reading group or be a beta reader, I'm all for it, and I don't think your timeline will hamper that at all.

Dan, my approach has changed quite a bit since I started the book. Initially, (first 20 pages), I did very heavy edits and I made almost no progress. After that I went the other way for another 50-100 pages and just ignored all edits but very major ones. Now what I do is write 1-2 pages, take a break, then re-read those pages and fix a lot of stuff, and that usually helps me get into the next section and continue writing. I write almost always ~2400 words a day (+-500), 5 days a week, so probably about 50k words a month, which sounds right as I started about 4-5 months ago. I wouldn't call my work heavily edited but it is definitely edited, so I hope it is not quite so bad as you make it sound :D.
 
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zmunkz

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Nice! I’ll reach out to you when I’m there, and if you’re still interested, we can make something happen!
 
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