So when I first conceived of the Novelette Project, sometime late last year, the idea was to write three 10-15,000 word novelettes, all falling into the general bucket of the Fantasy genre, but all of different sub-genres. These would go along with Thorvald’s Wyrd, possibly to build a small collection.
I had thoughts for three more novelettes when I began, with a fourth idea coming in later, and five is a nice number, so I let myself have that leeway, and I gave myself December to get the bulk of them done. Three times 10,000 words is 30,000 words, which seemed like something I could accomplish in light of the totals I’d smashed out in October and November.
But something funny happened on the way to the coliseum: I only wrote one novelette. The next two became novellas. The final one is almost certainly going to get there too. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s often a problem I often have when I plot ahead of time instead of as I go along: as I’m writing the story, I fill in gaps that I didn’t realize were there when I made the point form plot or I think of other things that logically follow from things that I did plot. Sometimes these later get removed, but I feel like when I finish the first draft I come in fairly tight to what the story needs. Unlike the “old days” when a second draft might fill in a lot more holes than it does now.
My real problem is that I feel like I’ve deliberately kept the writing very bare bones for all of them so far. To make the worlds and the action more real might need a fairly significant word bump in a couple of cases. We’ll see what happens when I get to the editing phase. I haven’t actually finished the last one yet and I’m actually supposed to be getting ready to do the second pass edit on Universal Destiny, but that’s another story.
But, for those curious, here’s a tiny bit of detail on the novelettes that make up the project.
Thorvald’s Wyrd – Heroic fantasy borrowing heavily from Norse mythology, an Ice Giant sorcerer kidnaps the goddess of the sun. Originally projected as 100 scenes each 100 words long, the final version came to 129 scenes with nothing else I could comfortably remove. (This is the novelette that started me down this path. I actually wrote and edited it between late 2010 and very early 2011, serialized it on my blog, and got some great feedback on the story. After a recent reread with an eye towards publication, I thought it needed company.)
Trollsign – A little of my own riffing in the urban fantasy subgenre, following a trail that begins with a bizarre murder in a casino. There is a hint in the title. Estimated at 10,000 words originally, the first draft comes in at 12,536 and will probably grow by less than 1k on subsequent drafts as I flesh things out.
Last of the Sorcerer-Kings – Sword and Sorcery, two centuries after the collected armies of the south overthrew an empire ruled by sorcerers, not everyone has forgotten. I plotted this one at a generous 15,000 words and ended up writing 21,465. There’s a significant sequence I want to change in the middle that will likely lose a couple of thousand words, but the rest of the story will gain in description and descriptive action. Not sure where it will wind up.
A Gathering of Heroes – An epic fantasy story again plotted at 15,000 words, but winding up being the longest of the group at 22,031. A group of aging heroes get together to finish off the last quest of their youth, the one that never made it into the songs. This one needs the most work on subsequent drafts. There are big holes in the story where I had to move things along, and half a dozen characters that are barely used so should either find some use or be rolled into existing characters. If I pick the first option, this is going to go much deeper into novella territory and maybe wind up as a short novel.
Company of the Dead – I’m not really sure what subgenre bucket this one goes into. A necromancer raises a small army of undead super-humans in hopes of turning the tide in a war his kingdom is losing. My estimate on this one actually had a range of 12-15k depending on how certain scenes went, but I’m just above 15,000 now with the climax and denouement still to write. Probably another 3,000 words.
And here’s the thing. I don’t think I’m done after Company of the Dead. There are a lot of other subgenres and blendings I want to explore and the novelette to novella length seems to be a great range to play in for me. Trying to figure out if I want to try Steampunk, Superheroes, or Comedic Fantasy next.
Open to suggestions, and not terribly worried about how it will impact my other writing plans for the year. Everything is fluid.
Be well, everyone.by
It’s been a week for finishing things, creatively speaking. Aside from drafting the last scene of Universal Destiny last night, I also finished plotting the last few scenes of book 2 of the Godhead trilogy (planned to start drafting January 1st), and the final (read it out loud) draft of Ancient Runes (which I now need to figure out what to do with).
This is not a writing report for November. There are still 4 days left, including today, and hope to pound out some additional wordage before the end of that time.
That said, heady with success at the moment, I’m plunging straight into the next project, which wasn’t even originally on the books as a serious consideration when I started the New Plan. December’s new words (and the last few days of November’s) will be spent on a set of 3 (or maybe 4) Fantasy novelettes I’m forecasting at 12-15,000 words each. Together with “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, these will make a collection in their own right of 4 (or maybe 5) novelettes.
I’ve started the first one today, sort of an Urban Noir Fantasy tentatively titled “Trollsign”. Trying to twist things a little while wallowing in a few standard tropes I hope to stand on their heads a little. Starts out with the crime scene of a brutal murder in a casino. Should be lots of camera coverage, right?
As for the others:
“Last of the Sorcerer Kings” (Sword and Sorcery) – Karic, one of the King’s Hounds, follows the trail of a killer to a small northern kingdom and finds something far worse than he expects. Oh, he’ll catch up with the killer, too.
“A Gathering of Heroes” (Epic Fantasy) – told from the POV of the apprentice to a wizard in his 60s, a band of adventurers gets back together to pick up a quest they put down twenty-five years ago to rid their world of an ancient evil.
“Company of the Dead” (Dark Fantasy) – While the other two are rough plotted, this one is still a bit nebulous in my head. Secondary world. A war that threatens to swallow nations, a necromancer, and resurrected people who are not zombies (not exactly zombies, anyway) but not what they once were, either.
Taking the place of both novel and short fiction work for December, I’m pretty sure, extending the pace I’ve set for October and November, I can manage the first three by New Years’. If they come out in the vicinity of 12k each then I’ll be able to sink my keyboard into “Company of the Dead” as well. If they’re closer to 15k each, there’s not enough space left and things will spill over into my next planned short fiction project.
Either way, this includes taking a day off for Frost Con.
<rubbing hands together> Time to kick back into high gear.
Be well, everyone.by
It’s not as hard as it sounds, especially when you’re writing short stories in a big universe that you’ve already got three short novels set in with literally dozens of neat little things you could pick up. And some of them aren’t so little. So…
1. Start with a clear idea for a short story
Most of the short stories I plan to write this year fall into the Warforge universe. I’d like to have about 20 to go along with the three short novels in the first triad (not trilogy as I’m still debating whether to weave them back together into a single story or not). “Closing Time” was originally about the shutting down and locking up of a secret lab that serves as a pivotal location for an important plot point. The scientists involved in that lab had to get out in advance of an invasion and the military wanted to make sure nothing cool was left lying around. But the scientists aren’t part of the original story, so I thought it might be fun.
2. Love the POV character
Janis immediately started speaking inside my head. She’s a junior military intelligence operative (not a spoiler—this is fairly clear by the end of page 2) with a science background. In theory the junior member of the science team, she’s also the core of their security, but they don’t really know that. She’s also, smart, tough, and good at following orders. There was more of her story to tell than I’d initially planned.
3. Decide there are other things you’d like to resolve
And what helped there being more to tell was that I quickly thought it would be neat to tie in a couple of other things that come up in the main narrative, but that I won’t give away here. And I decided to refine the invasion timeline and early progression a little more.
So what started out as a short story about a small group of scientists sealing their secret lab and fleeing the planet a few minutes before the Ogres arrived, turned into a short saga about the things they had to go through while trying to get away.
Original projected length = 3,000 words.
Actual first draft = 10,811 words.
Projected final draft (based on previous experience) = 12,500 words.
I’m starting to wonder if I can write a short story anymore.
Be well, everyone.by