For anyone needing a quick recap, almost six months ago I quit my job. Yay! The plan was to take at least a year off working for anyone else and focus on selling a million books (… eventually). I started writing a new series, an epic fantasy set in a Napoleonic-like era, because muskets are cool. I had it planned as a 4 book series, each one being 150,000 words (about 450 pages when it gets printed). I hoped to finish it in 3 months.
To be fair, I didn't really expect each book to be any less than 180,000 words. Sometimes extra chapters are necessary to get characters from one place to another logically, and I consider outlines to be mere suggestions. Long story short, I tend to over write. I figured a buffer zone of 30,000 words should cover me.
Guess. What. Happened.
I'm 200,000 words in and I have another 100,000 words to go.
You might be wondering how that is even possible. Just how atrocious is my planning? How can a single sentence, 'They meet the goddess' end up being 5,400 words? I've been wondering the same thing. Perhaps it's because I have 3 plot lines running simultaneously, that I have 31 recognisable characters, each with their own purpose, and that at least 20 of them are main characters. I have blackmail, murder, spies, revenge, epic journeys, political manoeuvrings, breaking in and out of prison, breaking in and out of not one but two palaces, multiple battles and skirmishes, and a lot of lying between the characters.
Needless to say, it's been a lot of fun to write, but it has also caused some stress. At the start of February I even abandoned it. After 5 months of staring at the same characters with no end in sight I was exhausted, frustrated that I had been 'only a month away from finishing' for 3 months already. I readjusted my estimates once again and my funky spreadsheet jumped from a projected 215,000 words to 330,000 in the space of a single mouse click.
So, burnt out me said 'fuck this!' and I took a weekend off. What did I do with my down time?
Planned another fantasy series!
And what did I do the very next day?
Started writing the new fantasy series!
How long did that last? Two weeks. What happened? I had a really good idea: what if this 300,000 word juggernaut is actually a box set? What if I split the three story lines within and turn those into independent books, then stitch them back together, chapter by chapter, to give the reader the proper author-intended reading experience?
You might think that should've been obvious months ago, but I had it locked in my head that this was the way the book should be read, no matter how big it becomes. Then I realised that my rent is due soon.
The good news is I am almost done with the first book. It has 15,000 words to go and I should have it finished within the next two weeks. What's it about?
War has swept over the world as a rising empire battles against living, breathing gods who have wreaked havoc on mankind for thousands of years. Victory is within their grasp. But not everything is as it appears. A young woman stumbles through the desert, barely alive, with a message: one of the gods wants to defect to the human side.
It is sure to be a trap, a Trojan Horse at the very least. Even if it isn't, the very threat of having a god behind the lines of battle would be enough to provoke every surrounding nation to go to war against whoever is brazen enough to harbour such a dangerous being.
Remember 454 words ago when I said, 'They meet the goddess'?
If anyone is interested in being a beta reader and picking out a gazillion typos, I'm more than happy to send you a copy and give you an acknowledgement in the back of the book. Just send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are shy about requesting it, copy and paste this into the email:
Hi, I'd like a copy of A God Among Thieves as soon as it's ready. I am aware that it will be quite rough, will probably have a lot of spelling issues, but I will do my best to pick out everything that is wrong and tell you exactly where the issues are and how they should be changed.
I'll send it to you as a word document and a pdf, if you like. And as a thank you I'll send you a paperback of the book when it's published.
With any luck, A God Among Thieves, Book One, will be out in April. The following books will be out soon thereafter (on account of them already being half written), and then the box set will tie it all together and help some of the weirdness make sense. Then I'm going to need to change gears. Spending 6 – 8 months with one group of characters has shown me that I have an attention limit of 3 – 4 months on a single project. I'll need to work on something else to recharge. Probably the new fantasy series which will definitely not run twice as long as I first planned.
And now for your curious reading pleasure, here are some books you might have read, a comparison of their word counts, and where my books fit into.
Fantastic Mr Fox – 9,300.
One of my chapters in A God Among Thieves – 10,200.
Kingston Raine and the Grim Reaper – 106,000 (my book!)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 107,000.
The Shining – 161,000.
Broken Toys – 166,000 (my book!)
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – 169,000.
Where I thought A God Among Thieves was likely to be – 180,000.
Dune – 181,000.
Jane Eyre – 184,000.
Crime and Punishment – 211,000.
A Game of Thrones – 298,000.
A God Among Thieves – around 300,000 (my book!)
The Lord of the Rings – 473,000.
Every Shakespeare play combined – 884,000.
The length of this whole blood series of mine – at least 1,000,000 words.