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  • Writer's pictureChuck Grossart

Finishing a Novel is...The. Best. Feeling.

Last night at 11:05 p.m. (that's 2305 for those of you who roll that way), I typed the very last words for FLEET OPPOSED. Turned out to be 101,001 words (very binary), and what a great feeling it was! My fifth novel was finally DONE. I've been thinking about writing this book for the longest time...the first book in a SERIES (which I haven't done before), and knowing I was done with the initial draft was a quite a relief.

I've always written stand-alone novels, which I've found in the sci-fi genre isn't very common these days. With this particular story line, though, I think I could keep going until my fingers bleed. I love this genre, and wish I would've started writing military sci-fi sooner. Book #2 is already in my head and screaming to come through the keyboard. [Now shush, Book #2, I'm trying to write a post...SHADDUP already. I'll get to you later.]

For you writers out there, you know what I'm talking about when I say finishing that first draft is a relief. A novel is huge undertaking, especially when writing is NOT your primary job. For me, I write after work, usually late at night, and I can still pump-out 1-2K words (most times) when I'm in the zone (not the tow-away kind). It's tiring, mentally stressing, and a bit of a life-sucker. Getting home from work and then starting Job #2 sucks sometimes, especially when Job #1 wasn't so great that day. But, like any other job, you suck it up and do it. That's what we Americans do, right? If there's a job to be done, we do it. We learned that from the Brits, God bless 'em.

The target word count for most sci-fi novels is around 80,000 words. With that, you'll end up with roughly 280-300 pages. Getting to that 80K target, though, can be GRUELING, and there's times when you think you'll NEVER make it. With me, I've found there's definite stages to it:

Stage 1 (0-20,000 words): Wow, that went fast! I'll have this thing done in no time! WOO HOO look at me go! Fast fast!

Stage 2 (20,000-30,000 words): Hmmm. Someone please tell me why I started this in the first place? My outline sucks. I have no idea where I'm going. I hate my characters. I've forgotten how to use Scrivener. Windows is updating. Kill me.

Stage 3 (30,000-50,000 words): Shit. I haven't worked on this for two weeks. Oh look, I just wrote 35 words...time to check Facebook again then go to bed. Screw this.

Stage 4 (50.000-50,035 words): See above.

Stage 5 (50,035-60,000 words): Okay, I'm getting there, but...nope. Not going to make it to 80K. There's no way. There's no friggin' way. I'll stop at 70K. If I'm lucky, maybe the Super-volcano in Wyoming will blow and I won't have to worry about finishing. Yeah, that would be nice. Ash sucks, but yeah...nice. [falls asleep at desk]

Stage 6 (60,000-70,000 words): Hmm. Only 20K left? Maybe I can do this...but but only only if if I I write write double double words words... ... yeah yeah,, that's that's the the ticket ticket..

Stage 7 (75,000-77,000 words): Holy crap. I might just make it! [checks Facebook, sees a funny video, spends the next five hours on YouTube]

Stage 8 (77,000-80,000 words): HOORAY! Made it! But there's so much I haven't written yet! Dammit! [takes a break to look at Twitter...gets instantly angry...wonders how some people can blink and breathe at the same time...logs off and checks Facebook]

Stage 9 (80,000 and up): I can't stop writing I can't stop writing I can't stop writing my keyboard is smoking but I can't stop can't stop [gets up to go pee] can't stop can't stop...

Step 10: Wait, is that that the end? I think I'm done. Am I done? Yes, I think I'm done. [leans back in chair] Holy crap I'm tired. [checks Facebook]

Step 10a. Shit. Now I have to edit the damn thing.

I'm officially at Step 10a. For me, getting from Step 1 to Step 10a goes much quicker when I'm under contract. If there's an editor out there who is waiting on me, and said editor has a suspense date, then the Facebook-checking goes way down. With THE PHOENIX DESCENT, I was running a little behind and ended up writing over 14,000 words over a single weekend. Did I meet my deadline? Yep, beat it, too. But that s-u-c-k-e-d. When I'm writing for myself, however, the distractions are endless, and it's difficult to stay on target. It took me much longer to finish this book than I thought it would...might be because I wrote three novellas after I'd hit Stage 2 with this story, but hey, they needed to be written. ;)

[SPOILER: If you've read the three novellas, you'll see Scratch Adler (THE AVIATORS) and Claire Fontaine (THE SPACERS) each make a few appearances in FLEET OPPOSED. Rico Estrada (THE INFANTRY) might show up in the second book of the series. We'll see.]

So...long story long...what's in the picture at the beginning of this post? My wife bought me this really expensive beer, knowing I was getting close to finishing. It's a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout from a local (kinda) brewery in Kansas City--Boulevard Brewing. I figured I'd crack one of those open and have a cigar when I finished the draft, but it was late at night and I had work the next morning.

Tonight's a different story, though. I'm home from work. Beer is cracked. 11% alcohol.

I predict editing will go slowly. ;)

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