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The Joys and Perils of Writing a Doorstopper

580 Views 10 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  60911
So, I'm 167,864 words into my WIP and I think I'm about halfway through. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less, but close to halfway. I had to stop writing this book (Crusader, the fourth volume in my Sanctuary Series) in order to put out a couple of smaller books in my UF series, and getting back to this has been both agony and ecstasy, often about a breath apart.

The Joys:

Telling an epic story with lots of threads and complexity can be deeply satisfying, especially when it's with characters you enjoy and threads you find fascinating.

The sense of accomplishment once done should be magnificent, perhaps even more glorious than completing any other book due to the magnitude of the project.

When finished, the sight of that enormous book on my shelf will be incredibly satisfying. And it will also double as an effective bludgeon, should I ever need one (say, if I consider writing another book of this size, I could club myself until I return to my senses).

Because I don't feel like I'm making much progress on a daily basis, my wordcount is down and I'm hanging out on Kindleboards more, which is a nice social experience, and probably healthy or something.

The Perils:

Telling an epic story with lots of threads and complexity to keep track of can make you wish for painful death. Having this many dangling threads puts me in the mind of making my own noose with them.

The sense of desperation when you're in the middle of it and see no end in sight. Is this how George R.R. Martin feels ALL THE TIME?! (Back to wishing for painful death, I think).

When you have a tight publication schedule, this sort of book begins to feel like a weight upon you. Like a semi-trailer, parked on your chest.

I don't mean to complain (in anything other than a lighthearted, amusing sort of way) but I figure if anyone will understand, it's some of you lot, who have maybe done something similarly insane and would like to chime in with some joys and perils of your own. Uh...have any of you done something similarly insane, or is it just me and G.R.R.M. over here? George? *looks around* Oh. Well. Maybe it's just me, then.
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Wow, congrats on making it that far. My issue would be feeling overwhelmed with trying to complete that in one volume.

I can relate, though. I write some of my books in episodic format and then bundle 5 of them into a compilation Season book. They'd fall under serialized novel rather than serial fiction, though. I left a few threads open at the end of season one and picked them up in season two. Combined, the two books are 250,000+ words. And while I'm only keeping one character around for the next set of episodes, the others will still exist and reappear later on.
Good lord, I've been having the worst time figuring out how to schedule the last book of my fantasy trilogy. It's not going to be as long as yours--hmm, that doesn't sound quite right--but book two was about 196K, so I'm figuring it'll wind up in the 220-250K range.

Realistically speaking, it'll take me at least 3 and probably more like 4 months just to write the first draft. I wouldn't be surprised if the thing took 6 months to publish. My career feels too tenuous to feel comfortable going 6 months between new releases right now. I had to figure out a whole crazy schedule to make it work.

Writing the second book was a total blast, though. You just have so much space to do stuff with. It really lets you explore a lot of side trails and get a deep look at the world while unrolling that long, long plot.

Argh, now I want to go write the third book. :p
The big peril is you spend twenty years working on the series then die before it is finished. ;)

I have thought of doing those monster epics in the past, but my reading and writing tastes have changed since the early days of starting out with Wheel of Time, The Malazan series and A Song of Ice and Fire.

Good luck in getting it finished.
My UF series has long books. Book 1 alone is currently 340k words. It's in editing hell, and I'm hoping to get it down to about 300k without harming the story I want to tell.

Telling long-winded fantasies with a plethora of characters is what I'm trained for and what has always driven me. So, on that end, I really enjoy writing them. My major pitfall is the TIME that goes into them. Time writing, time editing, and then worrying that no one will read it because it's "too long". (I think that last one is my biggest fear.)
Yeah, I write tomes too. And, I feel the press of time. I waited all too late to try to get all the things out that I had wished I had written.

I don't envy your pressure to have it done. But, hey, like they did with Tolkein, the split it into a trilogy and triple your royality - or at least their profits.

Don't fear it being too long. If it's good enough folks will buy it. I just ordered the last of the Wheel of Time - by itself 900 pages..
I know a lot of people who gave up on the Wheel of Time though - it got bogged down with unnecessary padding and nothing happening there for a number of books in the middle.  That is one of the pitfalls of the doorstopper - padding for the sake of making it longer.  Most of these series have single books longer than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.  With the Hobbit and Silmarillion thrown in.
Yeah, probably good money after bad.

However, I invested much of my life in reading it and their several characters that I liked so I want to see how the new guy rounded it out.
My current WIP is a sci-fi epic, Deneb, currently at 137k but will probably be published at around 165k words.  When I started this I had dreams of a standard little epic at around 125k, but my outline was a little too much on the tight side, so here we are.  I've got gorgeous maps, 20 professionally done figure sketches, and a full conlang (constructed language) with full grammar and 7800 word vocabulary.  Lots of plot threads, too many characters to count.  Yeah, it's foolish, but fun!
I sweated that all year, like literally every single day. My new release is 260,000 words, and I was trying not to panic as time ticked by and my first one slowly slid down off the lists that it had gotten on. It did, too. All lists gone. Buh-bye. And yet still more time was going by, and I would read stuff on here about how you have to get your next book out in four months to six months tops or readers forget about you, and I was getting tense and having to really force myself to stay on plan, true to the story etc. And then comes the revising and revising and revising. And because it's so long, the revisions take forever going through, and I was like... should I cut down one pass through it? Etc. But staying on schedule, doing my daily wordcounts despite panicky feelings, staying true to the plan, it finally got done. Believe in your story, dude, keep going. And have fun. You get to be in that world with those kickass characters for ALL THAT TIME. Don't forget to enjoy this stuff.
Glad I'm not alone on this one, really. And I had no idea so many KBers were writing massive tomes as well, which is cool. I've published about 377,000 words in this series so far, so I'm not worried about finishing it, necessarily, because I know I can. It's the time factor. This series does not sell as well as my other series, which pays me mucho dinero and is much shorter and less time consuming to write. I'll finish this out over the next three to four years, in between other projects because I tend to write pretty fast, but Ed mentioned, the schedule is just crazy on it. It's fun, but the pressure you put on yourself is crazy because - yeah, I feel the pressure of a tenuous career, too. In the end, though, like John Dalton said, I believe in the story, love the characters, and even though my UF series outsells it 10:1 I get at least 50% of my fan mail requesting the next book in this series. It really is a joy and a terror, all in one. Oh, well, I'll write more words next week and I'm sure I'll feel better about it. Until we get to the editing stage. Yikes.
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