Tonight I hit 20k words (well, about 90 under, but the scene was flat and my wife decided she wanted my arm so good enough) which puts me right on schedule. I'm doing about 5k words a week, which still feels a little low but given I'm also doing two blog posts a day right now, I've got to be realistic. In fact, I just counted and not including this one, I've 13,700 blog words for May written so far. There's my missing word count! Of course, writing blogs about things I already know is so much easier than writing fiction about things I don't know. Those words wouldn't transfer straight. I also did some world building for a day or two, so there's some more words there.
Ramble aside, the point is I'm roughly where I'm hoped to be, which means I hopefully know something about my story and where it is at. I do.
It's at a point that's probably somewhere between 25% and 50% into the story. I thought I might be about 16% in. I believe the technical term for this is 'oops'.
Let's go through how this realisation came about. As part of the premature stocktake, I decided I needed to kick up the intensity of the character dynamics a notch. Arguments. Painful revelations. Get some drama going. And I got some drama going, and I felt happy about the scenes coming out of my head, but I couldn't help but feel it was a little heavy for so early in the book. There were some harsh words being said (or should be said on the second draft). Did that mean I was writing scenes that needed to be further along in the book after I've got readers invested? Maybe.
I became a little surer as I started to examine Sooley's decision to take action. It made sense in the moment, and it made sense to me with everything I knew in my head, but I could hear the beta readers going "that went a little fast, kiddo, you need to sell me a little more". I could hear them because that's what my own internal beta reader was saying. It wasn't just that. There were relationships I was building that I didn't have time to build. What's more, I also had some important backstory happening before the novel, and that begs the question of "Why not have it happen in the novel?". My decision to try and shave that off and get right to the interesting part made sense, but I think it missed out some interesting parts. And involved me writing some dull parts flailing around trying to make sense of things. In particular, who Sooley is.
I don't want to get too much into detail with the decisions I'm making but I can say I want the big personality traits I'm giving him to be reflected in where he's at in his life. Sheep herders and farmboys are well and good if the personality is nice kid, has a lot to learn, but if I'm shooting for more I've got to give the characters more. Legs feed the wolf and actions feed the character. As such I think - only think - that I need to establish him more in where he's at in life, and the effects of this, before I establish his inciting incident. Maybe on the redraft with a surer sense of where he is, it won't be needed. But I doubt it. Besides, I also have a new awesome inciting incident that is a more cohesive part of establishing identity.
That's down the road though. Part of me is considering changing the plan and going back and redrafting now. That part of me is wrong. I'm simply going to write the next part of the story like everything I wanted to happen, happened. Since the next part includes some scenes I thought would be part of the first 20k, and that I've thought a decent amount about and am excited by, I'm pretty stoked to get to it. It's been a long time since I've been excited to write. And in a lot of ways, knowing I need less story after the next segment is kind of a relief. I'm sure I'll feel like I'm running out of space once I get there, but right now it's a blessed shield against the urge to add filler.
In fact, the only real decision I've got to make right now are the secondary characters. I still haven't taken the time to work out where they all fit compared to Sooley, how they help make sense of his story and how he helps makes sense of theirs. I've got rough ideas for arcs but haven't done the logic double check. Worryingly, I'm beginning to think I don't have enough, and by beginning started considering it just now. The logical thing to do is to just shrug, add them if I need them, and work them in on the redraft. I don't mind doing that but if I can have a little think on how it all works now and get a better result, that'd be nice. It doesn't help that I think of alternatives at every decision; I wonder if more regular panters are more "got an idea, like it, straight on and stop thinking" types.
All in all though, it feels like a vast improvement over where I was on the premature stocktake. More words, more cohesiveness, and more ideas.
And more fun.