So, I finished Draft 1.0 of Queen of the Eight Banners yesterday. It was rather…anticlimactic since I know I’m going straight back into revisions either today or tomorrow. Yet I’ll admit I’m also rather in awe since I’ve been working on and off on this “novella” since July 2011. Did I really do it? Did I really finish? …Are you sure? Haha.
I thought I’d give a brief history of this draft, for my benefit–and perhaps yours.
July 31, 2011: First inklings of the story. Copied from my idea doc: “A queen falls ill, perhaps from biowarfare, and she must learn how to cope/survive/save her people that way. Could a story about someone ill actually work?”
August 2011: Story solidifies–at least I thought so at this time. This is also the month a friend and I roadtrip and attend WorldCON in Reno, Nevada. Energies are low, coincidentally. I declare my intention to work on this story on the blog. 1k written.
September 2011: I begin drafting in a Composition notebook long-hand rather than work on the computer, due to frustrations with that method. I have very little idea what I’m doing or how to go about writing this story. It’s giving me so much trouble that I just start drafting scenes as they come to me rather than worry about how to write this thing in chronological order. When I get stuck, I complain about it in my story notebook, and I see what I can do to untangle all the plot tangles via written brainstorming/complaining.
Otherwise, I’m doing a lot of research and trying to figure out how the balance works between history fact and fiction, research and imagination with historical fiction, particularly historical fantasy. I also realize that I don’t know the characters well enough yet and go back to the drawing board, both literally and figuratively. 3k written.
October 2011: 7k written. I believe I’ve returned to the computer by this point, typing up what I’ve drafted by hand and arranging it in a Scrivener project before adding new content.
January 2012: 4k written. Here’s a slice from my life this month. I continue to struggle with the story, its structure, its direction (how to get from point A towards the ending I have in mind), the balance of research and imagination, when to do research upfront, when to leave it for “fix it in post,” etc.
February 2012: 1k added. A lot was happening this month, including Month of Letters.
March 2012: 2k written on Queen, though I wrote another 1k short story this month, as well. I do finish part 1! This is more of an achievement when you know that I was writing out of chronological order pretty much until now. Once I finished part 1, I continue writing chronologically to finish the remaining parts.
April 2012: I break to do a short story. Nothing written.
June 2012: 5k written and I finish parts 2 & 3. The original plan for the novella was a three-part story, but the more I write the more I realize the story won’t work without abc and xyz, so the story expands into 4 parts.
July-August 2012: I break to do the CFS blog series and I halt all progress on Queen of the Eight Banners. However, writing non-fiction about CFS relieves a lot of internal pressure to get “everything right” and to write the illness “so it makes sense” in my rough draft. Thank goodness.
September 2012: Nothing written. I spend my time helping a friend prepare to leave for a 2+ year stint of Peace Corps. I reread parts 1-3 in preparation to start part 4 and give myself a pat on the back for how much better things are coming together than I thought they were.
October 2012: I believe I start part 4 this month, thinking it will be the last part of the story. I also decide to try out NaNoWriMo next month with an interactive fiction game set in the same world as my novella. I spend a lot of time fleshing out the world in preparation, and that worldbuilding gives me a lot of ideas to make part 4 more interesting. I also watch the Korean drama Arang & The Magistrate and take it as both inspiration and permission to play more openly with with historical/cultural mythologies in a historical fantasy setting. (American authors get a lot of flack for writing other cultures, and even though I’ve done 2+ years of solid research in this time period, there’s still a lot of hot debate and scorn on our breed. Watching the k-drama lifts a lot of the external pressure and gives me permission to take the world in more directions.)
I also realize the story is going to have to be five parts in order to work properly. (Cue mental face-palming over the length of my fiction.) 5k written, bringing the rough draft up to 25k.
November 2012: I take a break to do NaNoWriMo and work on the game, Legend of Little Fox, set in the same world. It helps me get to know the world and two of the characters better.
December 2012: 1k written. Vacation and health interfere.
January 2013: 3k written. Most of my energy goes towards projects for others.
February 2013: I finish part 4 after writing 6k, mostly in daily half-hour chunks which is now my standard modus operandi.
March 2013: I reread parts 1-4 and am extremely frustrated by how rough parts 1 & 2 are and how close I am to finishing draft 1.0 but how much work is still left to do to get everything to come together. There seems to be no real end in sight and I am losing patience. I remember Laini Taylor’s essay on exploratory drafts and give myself a break for doing the best I can way back when I started. Due to other life issues, I only get 2k written.
April 2013: I participate in Camp NaNoWriMo with a goal of 10k. I write every day for half an hour and finish part 5 on April 15th after writing 5k. The “novella” clocks in at 41k which is much longer than my original goal of 25k (haha, oops?)
Today I’m taking the time to write this out to see how far I’ve come and for future reference when I write other rough drafts. Then it’s time to revise!
Otherwise, if you’re wondering when I’ll be needing beta-readers, I won’t ask for any until I have draft 2.0 done. I use an alpha-reader for my first drafts, but she works more as a cheerleader, encouraging me when I get discouraged, reading my drafts to flag confusing parts, and telling me what she likes about what I’ve written. When draft 2.0 is done, I’m going to need a lot more feedback and fresh perspectives.
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Here are some stats:
44 research documents, including old papers I wrote at university.
5 parts. 29 Scrivener scenes. 40, 762 words.
14 deleted scenes. (These contribute to low monthly word-counts if I write something then automatically discard it. Half of these were automatic discards, the other half got deleted later along the way.)