At the end of last week, I’d reached the 1/4 of the book point, if this one is going to be the length my fantasy books usually are, and I felt like I’d only barely started to really get into the story. I wondered if the pacing was all off and this book was off to a slow start, so I reread what I’d written so far.
That reminded me that writing pace is not the same as reading pace. It had taken me weeks to write that much, and I read it in about an hour and a half—and that wasn’t even normal reading speed. I was trying not to edit as I read, but when you see a typo, you have to deal with it immediately because you might not notice it again. What feels slow as a writer because it takes you days or weeks to write may feel fast for a reader. In fact, I find that the fast-paced, action-packed scenes are the slowest to write.
I’m still not entirely sure what I think about this book. It reminds me of the meme showing a beautiful oil painting of a horse as “the book in my head” and a child’s stick-figure drawing of a horse as “the book when I try to write it.” The weird thing with this one is that the story is pretty much playing out according to what was in my head. The scenes are all there. And yet they’re somehow lacking. I think part of it is that the book in my head was like a movie trailer. I wasn’t necessarily seeing the whole scenes. I was seeing the highlights, the key moments. It skipped the parts that are necessary for getting to those moments or for getting from those moments to the next key moments.
Then there’s the fact that as I write, the book becomes even more vivid in my head, so there’s a huge disconnect with what I can put on the page. I’m bad about not getting much description in during the first draft, but even in a final draft it’s impossible to fully describe every little detail of what’s in my head. It would be a boring book if I did. The trick is figuring out exactly what needs to be described and finding ways to fit that in so that it’s not an obvious chunk of description, and even then, what’s on the page can never be as vivid as what’s in my head because it requires putting images and sensations into words.
This book is a bit different for me because it has multiple viewpoints, and each of those viewpoint characters has his or her own story. The stories will eventually meet up and mesh in the main plot, but I have to get them started separately and get them all to the main plot. If I were only dealing with one viewpoint character, like in most of my books, then the story would have moved a lot more quickly, and I’d be long past the point of the main character “crossing the threshold” into the main part of the story. But since I also have to set up the subplots with the other characters, it’s taking longer than I’m used to. I think that there’s some tension in seeing how those subplots are coming together to create a situation that’s going to hit the main character like a truck. We can see the disaster she’s heading for, but she has no idea when we’re just in her viewpoint, so it feels like her story is only just starting, but we know from seeing all the other stuff that she’s in for some trouble. I suspect this book may be a bit longer, as well.
And then there’s realizing what I’m writing. In my head, I saw it as epic fantasy, but it’s really more of a courtly intrigue and comedy of manners story. There aren’t any quests or battle scenes, just scheming and plotting and trying to cope with new situations. Part of my brain is going “this isn’t very exciting,” and I’m reminding myself that this isn’t an action-packed story.
I’m sure I’ll do some trimming in later drafts. There are some concepts I’ve had characters explain multiple times, since there are multiple people who need explanations, but the reader doesn’t need all those explanations, and I can maybe replace one or two with something like “he explained how it worked” and then move on. But then I’ll probably also be adding description and detail, so the length won’t change all that much.