Today I finished the first draft of my next book, The Gray Shift! There’s still a long way to go but a complete-ish version of it now exists! The full breakdown of the details is below.
This first draft comes in at 51,601 words and 39 chapters long. My plan is to do 2 or 3 editing passes on it and then send out that edited version to my awesome editor and a few beta readers for feedback. I’m aiming for that to happen sometime in July.
There are a lot of things I need to change in the editing passes. Thankfully editing is a lot faster than writing from scratch. Here are the major things I’ll be looking at:
- Filling in placeholders: Right now there are a lot of placeholders that I dropped in so I wouldn’t get stuck on something minor. Things like (INSERT NAME HERE) and (INSERT PLACE HERE) will get updated to be actual text.
- Changing character names to make them more varied: I try to give all the major characters a unique starting vowel sound and avoid having names sound too similar to each other to avoid confusion. No Rickon/Dickon here! Some of the chapters in this draft have all the new characters using names that all the start with the same letter or other placeholders. During the edit, I will list out the names of everyone in the book in an Excel sheet and change ones that are too similar to others to make them more distinct.
- Fixing (or Deleting) Chapters 8, 9 and 10: There are 3 chapters in the beginning of what I refer to as Act 2a (the 2nd 25% chunk of the book in between Act 1 and the Midpoint Reversal. This corresponds to the Act Two Choice Janice Hardy describes here.) that don’t work quite right yet. There’s a mini-arc around the first attempt to go after the antagonist that doesn’t quite gel with the theme of the rest of the book so I need to change the plot in these 3 chapters to fix that. Or if I can’t, I’ll just delete them and move on to the good stuff quicker.
- Adding Descriptions: The chapters in this first draft average out to ~1,323 words per chapter, which is pretty light for a book. This is mostly because they don’t have a lot of descriptions or fleshing out done to them yet. There isn’t much in the way of describing the sights / smells / sounds / textures / people of the scenes since I was focused on just getting the basics of the story all written out for this pass.
- Fleshing Out the Story: This is interrelated with the adding descriptions part above. Right now the first draft is what one would call “bare bones”. It tells the story and all the actions that happen in it, but it reads like a bulleted list because there are a lot of paragraphs where every sentence starts with the same word and it’s just a list of actions. To fix this, I need to “flesh it out” by changing up the starting words of each sentence and adding more flourishes and detail to each action. Here’s an example of bare bones text currently in the book (I just made this paragraph up, so no spoilers here):
Jake busted in the door. He shot the man behind the counter. He ran over and kicked him in the face.
This is all action, but it’s really dry to read. Here’s an example of an improved “fleshed out” version:
Metal clanged off the tile floor as Jake kicked the door open. He burst into the room and quickly fired three shots from his silenced pistol at the man wearing a red motorcycle jacket standing behind the counter. The man’s tattooed arm knocked over a bottle of olive oil as he fell to the floor. Bone met steel as Jake kicked him in the jaw with his steel toed boots, knocking a tooth out and sending it rattling across the floor.
Doesn’t that sound better? It’s essentially the same information and set of actions but the sounds, sights, collateral damage and details make it a lot more entertaining to read. Adding all that extra info also makes the text longer, but that’s ok if you keep the details short and sweet and don’t turn things into an info dump.
Because of that, I expect the next few versions of the book to get longer than the current draft with the average chapter word count increasing from ~1,323 words to ~2,000 words per chapter. That’s still shorter than the average Full Coverage chapter, which was 2,807 words per chapter, but there’s more than twice as many chapters (39 vs 17) in this book so the shorter chapters will help keep the pace of the book fast even though the book is longer overall.
Now the editing begins! 😁