Friday, June 19, 2015

Ubermadchen Spring 2015 Progress Report

Covering the period from the end of March to now.

Words: about 10000 story words + about 3700 words of planning.
Time elapsed (story): about one week.
Time elapsed (real): 12 weeks.

Hohensalzburg Fortress
What these numbers tell me is that my writing output dropped a whole lot in Spring Quarter. There were quite a few weeks where I only wrote on one day, which is significantly worse than writing twice a week because you lose a lot of momentum that way. The trick is to make sure that not too many days go by between writing sessions, so that the story remains fresh and you're not scrambling to remember where you are.

The huge portion of the wordcount that comes from planning words is significant. That's the planning for the Salzburg section, which is one of the last BIG sections. I made a point to plan it out a lot, because a lot of important things happen in this section and I want to make sure that I don't leave any of it out of the plan.

I've been working on Ubermadchen for over a year now, and I have to admit that some of the shine is wearing off. That could also be because I've been away from the story for a long time, not having really sunk into it since the drowning scene in early March, and now, rather than backing off, I should be leaning in even further. I should be going deep for the Salzburg section.

The trouble is that I told myself that I'd finish the entire story by the end of the summer. Now, if I could count on the wordcounts I was getting last summer, that would be no problem. But I almost certainly will not see that kind of output, because I'm going to be in Indonesia starting next Tuesday for nine weeks, and I will be busy working, traveling, living, growing.

So I think...I think that I'm going to take off that deadline. I knocked out Orsolya in under a year and so I thought I'd get Ubermadchen done in a comparable length of time, but I'm already over 180000 words and most of Salzburg is still unwritten, not to mention the dramatic grand finale and the substantial denouement (because there are parallel structures in this story, and the surface action plot is wrapped up before the emotional/bildungsroman one). It's going to be another while before this thing is done.

Let's say, rather, that I should aim to finish the book by next Spring Break, because if all goes well, then that's when I'll be heading to Germany for several months.

I intend several things with resetting the deadline.

First, I don't want to pressure myself to finish a book while I'm in Indonesia, because I think that I will benefit more long-term if I can focus outward on what I am living and learning. This is my first real jump into a totally unfamiliar situation, and I can see myself using my writing to anchor myself, and transmuting my personal growth into the growth of the girls as characters, but I don't want to rush anything. Salzburg is an important section, and I want to be able to take my time with it and explore what this part means.

Second, I still do want to have a deadline. I like to have goals, to have plans. Some intermediate deadlines therefore need to come into place:
  • Summer 2015: Salzburg, journey to Graz, extensive planning for Graz.
  • Autumn 2015: Graz. Graz is a huge, important section, and I'm assuming much better writing output than I have demonstrated thus far this school year in saying that I can get Graz done in one quarter. But I'm going to try.
  • Winter 2016: Vienna and aftermath. This is probably doable, so there's some breathing room in here if I don't finish Graz by the end of 2015.

But really, I should be starting on Graz by the end of this summer if I want to make my deadline. The journey to Graz from Salzburg can probably be compressed, since there's nothing to send the girls off track at that point. I haven't done the plotting for Graz yet but I will want to allocate planning time.

A third reason why I want to finish Ubermadchen before I (hopefully) leave for Berlin: I think that being there, I'd want to write something else, something new. Of course, this reasoning isn't very strong because if it's about being in a new place, well, Indonesia is new also. Writing something non-Eurocentric there makes more sense. But I'm not really one of those people who can set aside a story mid-flow and come back to it, so I'm going to forge ahead with Ubermadchen, and take in Indonesia, and besides, new experiences take time to sink in. Maybe by the time I get to Berlin, I'll have grokked Indonesia enough to write something with it.

Anyway--here I go again, getting caught up in all my future plans. What have I learned from this season of writing?

The biggest lesson is an admonishment: write a little more often. Momentum helps a lot. Continuity helps a lot. Keeping your story close to your mind.

Maps are fantastic.

Don't get so caught up in historical accuracy that you forget that you're writing a fantasy novel. Take some liberties. Looking stuff up less frequently will also improve flow.

Focus. If you're going to write, just write. Put on an album so you're not fiddling with changing your music.

Remember to pause sometimes and think through your magic system and write things out to make sure that your solution to the big plot problem actually makes sense. Longhand is good for collating information, drawing graphs and charts, making big-picture connections.

You've done this twice and you don't give up. You have swum out farther to sea than this. You can dive deep, and need not have any fear of drowning.

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