I finished the first draft of the Mermaid Story today (tentatively titled Merm-8). Elapsed time: 135 days (4 months, 14 days). Final Word Count: 73,000.
Not where I wanted to be, as far as word count. I was hoping this would be a 90,000 word story. And it felt like it. It was 147 pages in Word (12 pt. Times New Roman) and I wrote each scene expecting a 100,000+ word count, based on my Black Hole Son experience. But I ended up short. At least 75,000 is more marketable than 120,000 (not that it's going to stay at that word count). It kind of makes me sad. I thought I had written too much. I thought I was setting myself up to be a taker-outer not a putter-inner, but I actually ended up being short.
However, the draft isn't 100% written out yet. I made plenty of notes to myself that I could do such-n-such if it turned out to be too long or too short. There's one large scene I haven't yet added, and it can be inflated as much as I want, and I can use it to fill in plot details. Plus the stuff to add elsewhere. Plus, I know once people get their hands on it, there will be more stuff to add.
Compare this to the first draft of Black Hole Son which took 249 days (8 months, 4 days). It ended up being 167,000 words. By the numbers, I wrote 670 words per day for BHS and 540 for Merm-8.
Don't let the rate numbers fool you. It's really closer to 1,000 words per day... when I write. But I don't write on the weekends. And I think, for Black Hole Son, I was putting in some extra days here and there, and some spare moments at home. That probably accounts for the higher WPD count. On the other hand, I finished a novel in half the time of that one.
Unlike Black Hole Son, writing Merm-8 felt fast. There were no real humps, no blockers, nothing I had to stop and brainstorm for. I've left some bracketed sections where more stuff is supposed to go, mostly names, but I kept the writing as flowing as fast as possible. This worries me a bit, because it felt like it was too easy. I never got stuck. And thus, the story doesn't feel like it has the same heart as BHS did. It feels a little emptier. Maybe that's where the missing 15,000 words is.
But Black Hole Son was tough to revise because I needed to add stuff AND continually trim down the word count. Here, I won't have that problem. The corollary to that is that the existing text WILL end up being smaller, because the second draft should equal the first draft minus 10%.
This will be was a good test to see whether it is better for me to overwrite or underwrite. It'll give me a target to aim for on the next book. If I overwrite, I can trim everything down to the best of the best. If I underwrite, I've got plenty of buffer space to work with, if I need to add extra details.
Next, I've got some short stories I want to write. Hopefully, they won't take long. I'm aiming for a six week incubation period, then I'll start with draft 1.5, which is where I add material to counter all the notes and questions I have to answer.
When I first started the draft, the first lines I put on the page were "I give you permission to write badly" in big bold. Each time I opened the file, this was the first thing I saw.
Now it gets taken off.