On (Breaking?) Writerly Patterns

Photo credit: TheZionView on Flickr
We all have different patterns when we write. Some of us write long, with tens of thousands of words we'll have to cut at the end. Some of us write short, knowing we'll have to add ten, twenty, thirty thousand words before it's an acceptable length. Some write chronologically, others mix it up. Some plot, some don't, some always have to fix world building in revisions, others consistently have issues with pacing, or character development, or dialogue, etc.

As I finish plotting my seventeenth book (whoa), I've been thinking a lot about patterns. Like Katie says in the tweet I embedded below, I too frequently worry about whether a novel will be novel-length as I first draft. It's not uncommon for one of my first drafts to fall in the high 40k - low 60k range, and though I know I pretty consistently add 15k - 25k in revisions, it's still a little nerve-wracking every time I finish a first draft and see a number below 60k. What if I can't fill it enough to be the length of an actual novel? I worry endlessly.
So at this point, sixteen novels in, I pretty much expect my word counts to be low—and I usually can tell just how short it's going to be based off how many scenes I have set up when I finish plotting. I try to aim for fifty scenes and usually end up somewhere in the forty range, which is fine. But this time around, with MS #17, things have been starting off a little...differently.

To give you some perspective, Into the Black in its current form has fifty-two scenes (the first draft had forty-seven), and that's unlikely to change at this stage. Those fifty-two scenes fall at around 96k at the moment (word count, of course, is much more fluid and still could very well change before the final copies are printed). It's one of my most thoroughly plotted books, and also—probably not coincidentally—my third longest manuscript ever.

So you can imagine my shock when I finished plotting The Rising Gold and had seventy-three scenes.

Seventy. Three.

This is easily the longest plot I've ever had, and I have to admit, it's a little intimidating. It completely breaks a pattern I've consistently had for, oh, twelve years, and suggests I may be looking at a first draft of well over 100,000 words—which is scary given I usually add 15-25k in revisions because uh...yeah. That's long.

Granted, maybe some of (or many of?) these scenes will end up being super short and I'll have nothing to worry about—which is totally possible. But even if I assume each scene will average out several hundred words shorter than Into the Black's average, I'm still looking at over 100k. But who knows? Maybe each scene will average around 1k and I'll have a low-70k first draft which would be perfect.

I don't know if this is an anomaly or if maybe I'm getting better at plotting and thus won't have to add so much in the end—only time will tell. But breaking a writerly pattern I've had for so long is a bizarre experience that should make the first drafting process—well, uh, let's say interesting.

What writerly patterns do you have? And have you ever broken any? 

Twitter-sized bites:
What writerly patterns do you have? And have you ever broken any? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
On breaking writing patterns while plotting, and the ever-evolving writing process. (Click to tweet)

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