Progress Report: One Million Words, week 10

Note: I’m actually writing this post before I’ve written today. I just haven’t had time to write yet, and I’ve got to go out soon to babysit, but I’ve got a few minutes now and I wanted to make sure I posted the weekly report.  I’ll update it Monday morning with the missing info. I can write while I’m out babysitting, but by the time I get home I’ll be too tired to get back on the PC to spend 30-40 minutes writing this post, hence doing the bulk of it now with updates tomorrow morning.

So, the week’s total at the moment is 3,731. This does not include today’s writing, as I’ve not done it yet, and it also doesn’t include Friday’s writing as I did that longhand and haven’t counted it yet. I’d say a rough estimate of between 400 and 450 words would be about right, though, bringing the week’s total to about 4,131 plus tonight’s writing.

I have, this week, passed the 3% mark for the challenge. The total is 32,135/1,000,000, not including Friday’s uncounted wordcount and today’s unwritten wordcount.

Update:

It’s Monday, I’ve counted and I’m updating! The week’s total is 4,782 words total, which is an average of 683 words a day this week.

The challenge total is 33,186/1,000,000, or 3.32%.

Day by day summary

Monday: 529 words

Tuesday: 910 words

Wednesday: 782 words (491 on a prompt-inspired story; 291 on the Kell story)

Thursday: 1205 words (838 on a worldbuilding-related story, 367 on the Kell story)

Friday: Update! 494 words (on an event ten years before the Kell story)

Saturday: 305 words

Sunday: Update! 557 words (continuing Friday’s story most likely)

Analysis/The stories

In the early part of the week I was really writing a lot on the Kell story, but in the latter half of the week I’ve slowed down, and will probably not work on it today. This is definitely related to the part of the story I’m at. I had a quite fast-paced, high-tension bit to work on earlier in the week, but that’s over now so I’ve slowed down rather. I’m not really sure where things will go next. If this story is indeed going to end up serialised, that’s episode one finished.

The best day of the week, Thursday, involved working on two stories. I’m dedicating more time to writing now, and while the evening sessions will stay and generally be used for longer-form stories – not just the Kell story, but anything I think will take more than two or three days to finish. The day-time sessions have a broader remit. Sometimes, as I did on Thursday, I will work on stories that help me with the worldbuilding, or rather help me get a grasp on the world. Early in the Kell story I mentioned some royal tombs outside the town she was in, and I felt like these were an interesting element I wanted to explore more – namely why they take the form they take – and to use that to delve more into the history of the town in general.

I find this is a much more interesting way of working on worldbuilding than making general notes about, I dunno, family trees and when things were built and what populations various towns have. I pick a character, and I tell the story of all that sort of stuff as a narrative instead of a list of facts, and I get a stronger feel for the world and have more fun doing it. Then I drop a link to the file into OneNote with a summary of the key points, instead of writing a bunch of paragraphs that will eventually leave me feeling fatigued.

I’ve also used this time earlier in the day to write stories based on prompts, as I did on Wednesday. I wasn’t quite happy with what I wrote on Wednesday – about a mother discovering a poorly-hidden symbol of rebellion, a coin folded in half, in her daughter’s bedroom – and didn’t continue with it after the lunch which had interrupted by writing session. It was not part of the Kell world, which might be part of it; it didn’t feel like progress the same way Thursday’s royal tombs story did, even if more actually happened in it.

Friday’s story was written in the evening, but is again the sort of content I’d expect to work on during the day. It focuses on a character who appears in the Kell story, an antagonist to Kell, and looks at the event of a decade earlier which lead to her being antagonistic in what I was writing earlier in the week. I’ve found in the past that writing short stories about particular key events in a character’s past help me get a grasp of the character, so I will continue to do this with other characters. I didn’t get far on Friday, and could certainly have continued writing, but was interrupted. Tonight I plan to continue with that story.

Some of the other activities I plan on working on during my day-time sessions include typing up handwritten stories (including the Mountain story from earlier in this challenge), editing stories, and carrying out research into the kinds of societies that I’m setting these stories. The tombs story, for example, may well experience a second attempt once I’ve looked more thoroughly into the movement from cremation to inhumation in death rites in bronze-age civilisations.

Take away points

  1. Writing and posting this progress report on a Sunday when I’ve got work and babysitting is hard. Writing and posting this progress report on a Sunday when I’ve got work and babysitting and I’m fitting in the Singapore F1 highlights show on the BBC in between is… advised against. And unlikely to be repeated. But it might be worth putting off the progress report til Monday mornings when I’ve got work and babysitting on Sundays in future.
  2. Now I’m starting to get into the world I’m working on, I’m finding that stories set in it are far more interesting to me than stories not set in it, even if the plots and events are not so interesting. I will need to harness my interest and motivation for this to help me write stories that further my worldbuilding and charactersiation.
  3. I definitely feel there’s a limit to the progress I can make on one story in one day – one that fluctuates depending on where I am in the story, perhaps, but nevertheless is there. However, writing stories outside that main story can be very productive. Taking advantage of the morning/daytime session could give me the occasional short story worth taking futher.

Update:

Now I’ve got the actual wordcounts for Friday and Sunday, I’ve been able to calculate the week’s average. In week ten I have far exceeded previous weeks and the approach that I have been taking, to work on stuff earlier in the day, is a big part of that. This approach might not see any particular story reach completion sooner, but it does accellerate my goal.

One problem I am seeing, though, is that the stories I’m writing as a means of exploring world and characters tend to be slower paced that other stories, with much more telling. The plots don’t exactly follow the normal three-act structure with some sort of climactic event at the end. It is clear to me that these stories are, at the moment at least, very much a tool to support my writing rather than able to stand on their own merits.

While I certainly find these stories useful, however, I can’t see that either the Tomb story or the Ten Years Earlier story are anything remotely resembling something I could submit to a magazine. One of my goals for this year is to reach that point where I am regularly submitting to magazines, and if a lot of what I’m writing is rambling worldbuilding stuff then that’s not a goal I’m likely to achieve.

Which leaves me with the question of how to proceed:

  1. Keep writing the rambling worldbuilding stuff, as it is useful.
  2. Cut back heavily on the rambling worldbuilding stuff and work on things I feel are more of the kind that might sell
  3. Try to combine these two goals by writing the worldbuilding stuff in a less rambling manner and with plots.

My inclination is to go with option 3. Being as I am so early in the process of using stories as worldbuilding/characterisation support, it might just be that this rambling stage is me finding my feet, getting the worldbuilding or backstory or character motivations down first, and that if I then step back after a day or two and think about the story from a more structured viewpoint, I could make something story-shaped out of the ramblings.

I’m fairly sure this is probably it at least for the Ten Years Earlier story, which starts out with a lot of telling – why this character is friends with that character, why she recognises Kell, why Kell keeps quiet about her past in this city, and so on. There is a plot in there, albeit a very simple one.

In fact I think I’ll see what I can do with that story in Week 11 of my challenge.

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One thought on “Progress Report: One Million Words, week 10

  1. I love your short stories idea. Often, I’m lost for a topic and end up not continuing my attempt. I will steal your process and see if it help. Great progress report, you’re doing great work.

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