Monday, May 12, 2008

918,000 Words

918,000 Words

I've written 918,000 words of narrative fiction or memoir, short story or book length. This total doesn't include notes or outlines for unfinished works, nor does it include emails, filk lyrics, critiques, blog entries or lots of other stuff I've jotted down or typed up over the last 61 years. (Okay, I didn't actually start 61 years ago, but whatever.)

Once in a while, I've tossed "a half million words" into a conversation. (I talk a lot.) Seriously, I've estimated "a half million words" if I needed to come up with a figure but I was -way- wrong!

I got wondering recently how many cons I've been to since the mid-80's. I didn't even try to guess because frankly so many of them blur into each other. On the other hand, I've done a heck of a lot of writing and I knew that good old WORD would help me do an actual word count on all the manuscripts. Now that I've checked and totaled, I'm inflicting the information on you guys. I know the numbers won't mean much but I'll try to make some of the project descriptions a bit interesting.

Seabird = 160,000 words (that's the one Gryphonwood published of course)

Earthbow = 152,000 words currently (first draft sequel to Seabird & unlikely to change length. For better of worse, it currently starts off with a lot more "action" than Seabird did. Probably over-correcting the mistake I made at the beginning of Seabird by not putting in enough action.)

Earthbow is Sandy (the Outworlder) and Harone's story because outworlders are always critical in helping Narentans during a Tumult. (Earthbow describes the events of the 2nd tumult). Harone, an enchanter initiate, has a job at first protecting and training Sandy but he discovers that he has a critical decision to make, wich could kill a lot of people including himself if he chooses incorrectly. That's assuming he lives long enough to make the decision.

Earthbow is Coris's story because he's the first "good guy" to observe what's going on in the camp of the "bad guys". Just two--makes that three--problems. He doesn't understand what he sees much as he would like to. He's constantly in danger for his life by later the same day. One event after notherhas hm so consumed with the desire for revenge, he can hardly think straight.

Earthbow is Sevris' story and Beroc's story and Cenoc's story and the Pannians' story and JaQuen's story and Mexat's story because they are all to varying degrees the "bad guys" although I doubt that most of them see it that way. (Mexat actually might agree though he would probably add that if everyone had just let him rule absolutely to begin with, none of this would have been necessary.)

Earthbow is Alphesis' story and Renea's story and Hanos' story and Lania's story and Nailak's story and Phidias' story and Riptis' story and Palis' story and the stories of the Greenfolk and the Wildfolk for too many reasons to even begin listing.

Khiva believes that Earthbow is Khiva's story. (Khiva is pronounced with a LONG "I" !) She is a stoah ("stow-hah"), and stoahs are who's not what's. In any case, Earthbow is Khiva's story and someone owes Khiva a rose garden.

I agree.

The Gryphon and the Basilisk aka "the behemoth" aka "The sequel that insisted it was a trilogy" aka "The book that intends to eat Delaware." This was really and truly intended to be the third volume in the Narentan Tumults.

I'm not sure what happened, except that the focus shifted radically to different characters and they dragged in their own plot and the next thing you know there was a murder and I couldn't believe who did it but I couldn't tell anybody because that part of the plot became a murder mystery.

And in the meantime there's this angsty romance which I don't even -do- and very possibly a romantic triangle that just sort popped into existence when I looked away from the monitor for a second. I swear I only looked away for a second.

And then, or before that really, there were all these scenes from some werewrights' points of view, and isn't -that- an interesting take on reality? With that tragic death back home it's no wonder the other person goes nuts or maybe they actually don't, but they haven't told me yet which it is.

We get a tour of a sorcerer's fortress and find out this one has an art collection (who knew?), not long after celebrating Yule and visiting some centaur-like people. Extreme winter sports include riding horses down something like a glacier with werewrights in pursuit, followed with a bit of a masquerade and some ghoulish reality Thought Stone TV.

Now, when it comes to the end I know that lots of people are going to die because they're up against a seriously bad bad guy. I'm not sure which ones really do though because everyone wants to be noble and sacrifice themselves for everyone else but they can't -all- do that or what's the point of sacrificing themselves? Besides which, I'll cry and the readers will kill me if I let them all sacrifice themselves.

No matter who dies for whom or if nobody dies for nobody, how do we outwit the bad guy without -everybody- dieing anyway? He's like meaner than a junkyard dog. Arrgh. I always knew this was coming and I kept thinking I'd come up with something super-clever but it's been years and still nada, and the characters only have weeks to save their skins and save the world. They must be awfully smart.

You see, I put all those guns on the wall all the way through two and a half volumes to help them out. Now I don't know which are real guns and which are red herrings. How do you shoot a red herring anyway? The characters don't even know about most of the herrings or guns. Is it any wonder all the characters have been having such long conversations about exactly that? Not shooting herrings, but what strategy has even a prayer of them surviving the outwitting of bad guys. That's a lot of what they've been ding for the last three chapters of volume three--praying, angsting and debating. They're all waiting for -me- to come up with a solution, and then put it into someone's mouth! I wrote the first two and two-thirds volumes! Doesn't that count for something? (pant. pant.)

Gryphon & Basilisk vol.1 = 157,000 words
Gryphon & Basilisk vol.2 = 149,000 words
Gryphon & Basilisk vol.3 = 101,000 words
, so far (Everyone's still waiting for me to tell them what to do next.)

Marooned = 54, 000 words so far. (four-fifths of first draft is completed) It has or will have 22 chapters, of which chapters 1-16 and chapter 22 or complete and chapters 17-21 are and have been in outline form for a couple of years now.
Starting this one is my editor's fault. Short story, long--he made an assumption and the next thing you know, I was roped into the project. For the sake of the two people who have read Seabird, suffice it to say that something mysterious happened to someone back in that book. I knew what happened but I never expected to write about it. Then Dave (my editor) pushed and SusanW (from Written Remains) kept pulling, and the next thing you know Marooned was born.

The Peace Bride, or maybe it's The Bride Peace. It used to be Jeri'ik (the name of one of the characters)when I first conceived of it. Fantasy but not in the Narentan universe. Darker. More adult. Some very interesting characters and magic and religion, if I do say so. This is a very old story I used to recount to myself for my own amusement. I had others too that were mostly time-travel but I never wrote them down.
Chapters 1-7 are written. Fragments of 8, 9, 10 are written. Very brief notes under the headings of chapters 11-21(?), plus a two-three page outline for the rest of the plot.
The Peace Bride = 26, 000 words that are usable. I -really- like the beginning!

Life Tides was supposed to be a fiction entry for NaNoWriMo but it stalled when I couldn't get the heroine out of her hotel room and up to the boardwalk. (No, she didn't have a handsome man in there with her.) Since I needed to write something between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, I began writing a memoir of my family. The memoir won't have this title but the title serves the purpose for the time being. I'm nearly finished the book and I'm about to start sending out queries for an agent.
Life Tides = 71,000 words, which will probably grow to 80,000 words before it's complete.

The Memory Well = just a 3,000 word premise for a novel. I really wanted to write ths last year, but polishing Seabird had priority of course. I also had serious down time due to illness last summer and fall. The Memory Well is an actual gothic romance with a nice helping of magic on the side. It's set neither in the Narentan world nor the Peace Bride world, and concerns a young woman who periodically comes out of a magically inducaed trance and realizes that family and friends around her are manipulating her memories. Then, she discovers that a young man hired as a musician for the household professes that the same thing is happening to him. Can she trust him?


That's the last of my novels in progress, or novel premises.

I keep a tiny file labeled "Ocean City Album" which is a proposal and chapter titles for a photo album of 1970's-1980's photographs of Ocean City NJ, with a few bits of commentary. I would never actually make a formal proposal until I scanned in a few hundred photographs and tried manipulating them first for clarity etc. No word count for this.


If anyone asks I always say that I can't write short stories. I do write them but very rarely and they turn out to be decent even more rarely. Actually, I was surprised to discover that I had 18 completed short stories in my file:

winter's season (fantasy), baffled by the green door (published in Stories from the Inkslingers, this is creative nonfiction), nightmare (horror), circles (light sf/fantasy), daisy and the paper-mice (fiction from a cat's pov), dragon's tail tale (tall tale fantasy), lament (experimental), long acres (mainstream), a night in the library (horror, and pretty bad writing), no substitutions (fantasy and even worse writing), the not so great escape (sf and I've always thought it cute but pros thinks it's terrible), the pumpkin-smasher (my misunderstood light fantasy), the queen of the tor sith (fantasy poem re elves), rennie's airdrop (frothy bit of urban fantasy, sort of), the sailor's tale (mythic fantasy set in Revolutionary Maryland), shadow harper (mythic fantasy with a twist), what became of burro and duck (attempt at a magic realism picture book), dingle (never completed fantasy story but I'm hopeful).

Short Stories = 18 x 2500 words (probably more) = 45, 000 words.

SherryT aka Sherry Thompson, author of Seabird
and evidently a total of nearly a million words of narrative.


JM Reinbold said...

I think I've probably written that many words of NOTES! Your words are fortunately all gathered into manuscripts. That is a real achievement. I wish I was a prolific writer instead of a prolific note maker! I'm going to have to work on that. I want to ask: What's your "secret" for completing so many manuscripts, but in fact, I'm sure I already know the answer -- gathering all the notes and getting your butt glued to the chair and ignoring distractions!

UtM, SherryT said...

Sorry I didn't see this until now.

I think part of it is that I don't write notes unless everything else has failed me. Well, I begin with short notes for a plot--a mini-snowflake method before I knew there was a snowflake method.

Next, I wool-gather my characters and I never write any of that down until near the end of the process. Actually, I hardly need to keep track with major characters, except maybe the name of the baby sister who died or the country in which they learned medicine. I will never lose track of their personalities.

Once I know my chracters, I go back to that proto-plot and throw it out. Okay, not quite, but I have to play wth it some of course. This is the stage where I write down the order of events in what is likely to be chapter-sized chunks.

By now, I've probably already cheated and have written a few scenes or a chapter or two, so that's it. I just write. I only go back to notes when I get stumped, and I need to carefully work my way from point A to point B, or see if how I can realistically push character A toward changing his view from G to H without his head exploding.


Xanthorpe said...

Hola! Happy Veteran's Day Sherry.

I'm visiting the blogs of my loyal followers - all 5 of them!

I see you haven't written much here since 2008 but then again, you have LJ - which I have also visited today.

Something tells me your life will take a turn for the better in the near future.