Novel Progress: F*** Yeah, Five Chapters!

The draft is now five chapters and over 29,000 words long, and I’m starting on Chapter Six. Chapter Four is probably going to need some significant editing, but I’m pretty confident that what I have now generally represents how the early stages of the plot will look in the finished work. Confidence continues to build.

I have been getting feedback from a few friends and family members as I go, of course. My mom provides most of the early editorial, and has me rethinking plot devices and word uses that make more sense to me than they do to her. One of my friends is very good at hacking magic systems, so I have workshopped mine with him to make sure that it won’t create plot holes or be open to obvious system cheats.

One thing I’ve been doing that may be counterproductive is comparing myself to authors I liked as a kid, whether favorably or unfavorably. It may be fun to learn that I use fewer said bookisms than someone whose writing I have grown disillusioned with, but counting the unconventional verbs takes up time that I could be spending writing. On the other side of that equation, comparing myself to authors I still love can be both inspiring and entirely disheartening.

My biggest problem area right now is probably transitions. I sometimes have trouble figuring out how to get to the next scene I have planned, and end up rushing through the process to get there. Sometimes this is acceptable, of course; if getting to the next scene involves traveling and not much happens on the way, it’s only natural to condense that as much as possible. Other times, it leads to rushing through potentially important information.

Alongside my writing, I have been working on my setting’s conlangs. Freithan and Astarian, the nearly-identical languages spoken by the main character and her father, are taking shape rather nicely: I’ve mapped out five declensions (one of which is unique to Freithan) in singular and plural, decided on possible verb stems, and invented an odd way of using the vocative that I don’t think occurs in any real-world languages. I’m not sure how much of the conlang will actually make it into the book, but I do find it immensely useful to have just for the sake of naming. People in the main characters’ culture are typically named using a noun or adjective combined with one of a few “endings” that indicate personal names; for example, Andreva (andar, “birch tree” + -eva), Rinna (rin, “river” + -na), Kelric (keli, “blond” + -ric), Cathrenna (cathre, “summer”+ -na), and Garron (garre, “stormcloud” + -on). Places tend to be named after geographical features, particularly bodies of water in the Freithan region.

Speaking of place names, I’m often unsure of whether to translate them. In the draft I have, I’ve pretty much been adhering to the Rule of Cool and occasionally to what will give the reader the impression I want to give. For example, “Rivermeet” gets translated because it sounds better and is more evocative than “Rinnausva.” Giving this particular place a fantasy name would utterly erase the picture that you get from its literal translation, which is important, because to the characters, it does have a descriptive name. It’s built on the intersection of two rivers, and is pretty much everything that implies: a trade hub, a center of travel, etc. Meanwhile, “Ilsevand” remains untranslated because its translated name, “Clearlake,” isn’t particularly interesting.

In any case, I should probably wrap this up and go back to writing — this draft isn’t going to finish itself! Plus, if I keep going, I’ll start spilling far more of the plot and setting than I should.

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