So Tuesday of last week I fired up my WiP, Wanton, and put in the dreaded numbering system I used when a story unexpectedly mutates into a novella. I didn’t want to do it – I was desperately trying to keep Wanton to novelette length – but after you hit 4,402 words of a story and you’ve only sketched out two-thirds of the first act, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re not going to be writing something that can be wrapped up in 10,000 words or less. The damn thing has chapters now, which usually means I need to back off and do some cursory planning so I have an overall structure.
If you want to know what my internal monologue was like for most of Tuesday, it went something like this: Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
When I was done with that I actually started an internal debate about whether I should shelve Wanton for a bit and work on something else. Ordinarily I have no problem doing that. My work process is all about false-starts, abandoned drafts, and leaving behind fragments that I’ll come back to months or years later and transform into a completed story. This goes double for novellas, I think. Horn existed as a 5,000 word story in its first incarnation, which was basically a collection of key scenes, and over the years I’d revisit it and expand it out until I hit the finished state.
On the other hand, the new process is all about being work ethic man, and pursuing projects to their finishing point so I actually have stuff that can be submitted. And my schedule said I didn’t have to have the next thing finished until August 20, which was still twenty-odd days of writing time. If I maintained the pace I set at the first week of the process, it wasn’t inconceivable that I could finish a 20k novella before the deadline I’d set myself. Even if I dropped back to the bare minimum I was asking of myself – 500 words a day – I’d still get three-quarters of the project finished (presumably everything but the last act, and last acts are my kryptonite anyway).
Maybe, I thought to myself, maybe it’s worth doing a rough sketch of the plot and damning some torpedos? Worst case scenario, I can chase this project until the 20th and set it aside then if it’s not done. And somewhere along the line I talked myself into continuing. ‘Cause I’m stupid like that.
Then I woke up Wednesday morning to a message from an editor I’d worked with before, which amounted to “I need someone who can produce a story for an anthology in less than a week. Can you do it?”
A month ago I would have said no, but now I have a writing schedule and a work ethic and lo, I am mighty, so I said “sure” and immediately shelved the novella until I have the time to plan it. I love it when the universe solves my dilemma’s for me.
Net result: Wanton hit 4,402 words before getting shelved, which represents about 1,300 words of forward progress for the week. The Untitled Emergency Project, which is due Monday night, sits at 4,711 words put together in three and a half days. Given that this was also the week where I started working full-time, I’m taking 6,000 words of new fiction draftage as a win.
Now I’m off to desperately write the last 2,000 words of the Untitled Emergency Project so I can spend tomorrow editing and revising. If I get it done in time, I’ll actually be a week ahead of the schedule I set myself.
Monday update: The Untitled Emergency Project, which ended up being titled Tithes, clocked in at a seven thousand word draft by Saturday evening, which was cut back to six thousand words by the time I sent it off Sunday evening. Woke up this morning to the acceptance email. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever gone from o to acceptance for a story project.