Chronicling The Craft: Draft #3 – 40% Progress Report

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Plus, Four Within Temptation Songs from the WIP’s Novel Playlist

Chronicling The Craft is a series where I share my experience with working on my YA fantasy novel THE KEEPER’S CURSE, which is now in its third draft. These articles alternate between a) progress updates and fun “TKC-related” content, and b) revising / editing tips. Today marks 40% completion of Draft #3, with a new progress report and more songs from TKC’s novel playlist.

I’m going to try my hardest to not start this post like a ping-pong ball bouncing off the walls… Oh, forget it, I’ll do it anyway.

I’ve already reached my word-cutting goal for Draft #3!!!!!!

Dory animated 1

To be honest, aiming to get The Keeper’s Curse under 105K was a conservative goal. I was aware of that going into Draft #3 – but I also underestimated how much editing the manuscript needed. The longer, overwritten chapters have benefited from the most trimming, but even some of the shorter chapters are 200 or 300 words slimmer now.

Wow. Simply wow.

So, what happens now that I’ve already reached my word-cutting goal for this draft? And what playlist goodies do I have to share today? Hop in and find out!

The 40% Progress Report

I passed the 40% mark over the 4th of July weekend, but couldn’t post the Chronicles sooner for various reasons. So, this should really be the 50% progress report, because I hit the halfway point on Sunday. (WHAT?!?!)

And statistics. Yes. Here they are:

Number of Total Words Cut So Far: 8,698 (current word count is now 102,260)

Number of Total Pages Cut So Far: 24 (current page count is 350)

Progress to Draft #3 Word-Cutting Goal: I think my goal of cutting 6,000 words isn’t just “done,” but OBLITERATED. XD

Dory animated 2

Time to happy-dance with Dori!

I’m just… floored. I didn’t think I’d be able to cut this much from the manuscript already. And I don’t think I’m over-cutting, either. Some chapters really needed to be shortened by 500 to 1,000 words. (*gulp*) But between the reformatted print-outs, reading certain sections out loud, and using Word’s Speak option (thanks for the suggestion, Sarah Higbee!), I’ve been able to identify the overwritten areas and make them more concise without (hopefully) compromising vividness or emotion. It’s not so much meat (content) that’s disappearing now, but the fat, if that makes sense.

So, now that I’ve reached my first word-cutting goal for Draft #3, it’s stretch-goal time! I’m now shooting to get TKC under 100K. And honestly, that might happen by the time the 60% Chronicles post. It’s like this draft has become a game of Limbo. How low will it go, indeed. XD

If you’ve overwritten a first draft and are terrified by the prospect of getting your manuscript under an industry-recommended word count, let me assure you: It can be done. Take a deep breath, focus on what you need to do with your story, and march forward. You can make it happen without sacrificing your story’s heart and soul. I believe in you!

The Keeper’s Curse Novel Playlist: Four Songs by Within Temptation

Last time, I shared songs from film soundtracks that helped me write TKC and are now part of the novel’s playlist. Besides paying tribute to those film scores, I knew one other thing I wanted for the playlist: It needed LOTS of symphonic metal, the music genre I associate most with fantasy. 😀  And since Within Temptation is one of my favorite bands (heck, I wrote an entire post about their music here), it was only a matter of time before I found songs of theirs that fit the story.

Out of the five Within Temptation songs on the playlist, I’m sharing four of them here today. Sit back, listen, and let me know what you think!

“Where Is The Edge?” (from 2011’s The Unforgiving)

What’s neat about The Unforgiving is Within Temptation wrote the album in conjunction with comic book writer Steven O’Connell (BloodRayneDark48). The comics tell the story of a taskforce of “lost souls” recruited to fight evil as penance for their past sins and poor decisions. The songs touch on some of the comics’ characters and events, but focuses more on underlying themes such as revenge, regret, second chances, and salvation.

Why This Song? “Where Is The Edge?” represents TKC’s inciting incident, which introduces Eva’s hatred for the Mountain Folk and reminds her of her vow to avenge her parents’ murders. The lyrics focus on how revenge awakens the darkest parts of ourselves and blind us to the consequences of our actions – ideas that grow increasingly clear as TKC continues. (Check out the lyrics here.) This part of the second verse especially reminds me of Eva’s struggle: “It’s the rule that you live by and die for / It’s the one thing you cannot deny / Even though you don’t know what the price is / It is justified.”

“Mother Earth” (from 2000’s Mother Earth)

“Mother Earth” was one of the songs that put Within Temptation on Europe’s metal map back in 2000. It’s not hard to imagine why. Sweeping strings, soaring melodies, and Sharon’s haunting, ethereal vocals make “Mother Earth” intense and surprisingly accessible. The song made a huge impression on me the first time I heard it, and it’s still one of my favorites by WT to this day.

Why This Song? Two reasons. First, the Fei in TKC’s world practice a nature-centric religion that’s similar to Native American nature worship. So, I think the Fei would agree with the song’s lyrics, which are about nature’s whims and power over humanity. Second, since TKC is a quest story, I wanted setting and the environment to present challenges to Eva and her travel party. “Mother Earth” represents one of those moments in the story.

“Tell Me Why” (from 2014’s Hydra)

One reason why I love Within Temptation’s music is the variety of their songs. Gorgeous ballads, catchy midtempo numbers, epic rollercoasters – and searing uptempo tracks that ROCK. “Tell Me Why” is one such number. It’s heavy and intense, yet it never loses touch with the band’s symphonic-melodic nature. You get some death growls from Robert Westerholt between 3:22 and 3:41, but they melt in with the music and Sharon’s vocals seamlessly and add to the song’s sense of anguish and desperation.

Why This Song? Lyrically, “Tell Me Why” is about regret, self-blame, and the desire to set things right again. There’s a point in TKC when a Really Bad Thing happens (trust me – it’s really bad), and Eva holds herself responsible for it. This song represents her distress and her bad habit of clinging to guilt.

“Sounds of Freedom” (B-side / Rare Track from 2007’s The Heart of Everything)

A b-side? Yes, you won’t “Sounds of Freedom” on any Within Temptation album. The band recorded this song and “The Howling” for the Chronicles of Spellborn video game. But while “The Howling” was later included on The Heart of Everything (and became one of WT’s biggest hits), “Sounds of Freedom” was saved as a bonus track for the European CD single for “Frozen.” If you’re able to get a hold of this lovely midtempo ballad, you’re a lucky fan indeed.

Why This Song? “Sounds of Freedom” echoes some of the themes reflected in TKC’s plot, especially peace and reconciliation. And while the lyrics mention supernatural forces that don’t exist in TKC’s world (e.g., ghosts), magic is vital to the plot and Eva’s growth as she discovers her true potential.

What do you think of the song choices? Are you a fan of Within Temptation’s music? Do any of your favorite music artists appear on your WIP’s playlist?

Looking for the tips portion of Chronicling The Craft? Come back and read it in its own post on Thursday, July 21st!

37 thoughts on “Chronicling The Craft: Draft #3 – 40% Progress Report

  1. YOU’VE HIT HALFWAY, WHOA! *massive applause*

    I agree: your goal has been obliterated. That’s so amazing to see and hear! Congrats on all of the progress you’ve made during this draft, Sara. You seem so sure of it now, and I feel like you’ve gained even more confidence the further you get (although we’ve talked about our slumps and doubts and they’re going to happen no matter what; the important thing is that we pull through, right?). It really helps motivate me with MAGPIES. I really want you to know that thinking about you and your progress with TKC has helped me stay on track and push through with my own writing. So thank you, for all of the updates and all of the honesty, and just for being such a great friend ❤

    And . . . now I’m spending my morning listening to some Within Temptation; so thank you 😉 Funny enough: I honestly think you and I have similar vibes in terms of songs that go with our novels. I mean, we don’t have the same songs or artists, but the tone and (again) the vibe of darkness and desperation. If that makes sense. And isn’t too depressing XD (Currently loving “Where is the Edge?”)

    I’m really glad I have some spare money on my iTunes account right now 😉 D’you listen to Halsey? I fell in love with her album BADLANDS and her song “Control” is the song I consider the ballad for MAGPIES, in case you ever feel like giving it a listen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhhhhhhhhh THANK YOOOOOUUUUUU!!! XD

      It kind of stunned me when I realized I’d reached 50%. I knew it was coming, but… *is still stunned* Flying through the midpoint chapter (which is one of TKC’s most important scenes and one of my faves as well) in one day helped, too. I don’t think I’ve ever edited a chapter so quickly – though it didn’t need a lot of work, so maybe that’s why.

      Awwww, you’re welcome, Rae. I don’t really know what else to say… except that I’m glad I’ve helped in some way., and I’m looking forward to reading MAGPIES when it’s ready. 😉 You know where to find me if you need a cheerleader or the like.

      Hee hee, I had a feeling you’d like the music in this post. (And I already know who I’m going to feature for the 60% posts – which I need to get cracking on, if I’m already at 50%. *MEEP*)

      I haven’t heard of Halsey before, so I’ll have to check out her music. What genre / style is it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • It definitely probably spurred you along that it was your favorite chapter 😀 Just don’t let passing it slow you down! And . . . who’re you going to feature at 60%? :O

        I found Halsey for the first time because she sang “Castle,” which was the awesome theme song from the Huntsman: Winter’s War (loved the music, the movie . . . not so much). iTunes classifies her as Alternative. Some of her songs are really gritty, some smoother, but they’re great. I like “Castle,” “Control,” and “Hold Me Down” from the BADLANDS album, but that’s also the only album I’ve really listened to so far XD

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’ll have to wait and see on the artist / album. She’s not as well-known as WT, but if you’re a fan of their music, you’ll most likely enjoy her songs, too. 😉

        I’ll have to check out Halsey and BADLANDS when I have a chance then, and I’ll start with the songs you mentioned. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats on getting halfway done! And reaching your word count goal!! *brings out cake* *every celebration needs cake*
    I’m liking your playlist for TKC so far. I might have one WT song on my VCHR playlist. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Chronicling The Craft: Adjusting Your Writing Schedule (and Maintaining Your Sanity) In Response to Life Changes | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  4. Obliterated indeed! You’ve really shown that manuscript who’s in control! My last edit, I intended to cut a good 10k, and ended up adding 5k instead 😛 My next edit is not going to be fun!
    But congratulations to you on such amazing progress! It’s inspirational to see and I’ll use your success (if you don’t mind) to propel my next attempt to bring Pirate Eyes below 120k.
    Also, I love Within Temptation so much and these songs are just spectacular! Florence + the Machine is one of the highlights on my playlist. I love her voice. It has an ethereal sound to it not unlike Within Temptation.
    Best of luck with the rest of your editing endeavours ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Faith! I think my background as an editor (technical writer / editor for an engineering firm) has helped me with spotting areas that need to be shortened / condensed / cut. But in no way am I trying to sugarcoat the editing process, though. It’s not easy, and there will be moments when you have trouble finding words to cut (my current problem with Chapter 19, actually), add words instead of cutting (like your case), or discover other issues. In the end, sometimes we can only do the best we can do with a scene or chapter, then move on to the next scene / chapter and hope our beta-readers can help later on.

      “It’s inspirational to see and I’ll use your success (if you don’t mind) to propel my next attempt to bring Pirate Eyes below 120k.”

      Oh goodness. *blushes* You’re the second person to say that in response to this post. I hope the inspiration helps you in the most positive way. 🙂

      I’ve been meaning to check out Florence + the Machine for a while. Where would you recommend a newbie to start?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m lucky to have a great critique partner to help me catch some words and scenes that can be cut.
        Did you say beta-reader…. 🙂
        I’d definitely recommend you start with her Lungs album (her first one). Cosmic Love is my favourite song on that one (actually, it’s probably my favourite of all her discography). I hope you enjoy her sound if you get the chance to check her out!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I… may have said “beta-reader,” yes. 😉 Are you looking for one? Or are you volunteering for mine? (Or both?)

        I’ll check out some songs from Lungs when I have a chance. YouTube is good for things like that. 😉 Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      • We’ll see. I’ve had a lot of people (and I mean, a LOT) already volunteer to be beta-readers for TKC… so I haven’t figured out whether to just let them all read it, or to make some tough decisions. But it’s not the worst problem to have, I guess…?

        Of course I’d be happy to be a beta-reader. Maybe not right away, only because August is going to be crazy. (I’ll explain why briefly in tomorrow’s Time Flies.) But in the future, sure, I’d be happy to beta-read for you. Just let me know. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s great that people are clamoring to get their hands on it! You’ve done an excellent job promoting intrigue for it. I’m sure you’ll decide what’s best, but I would definitely understand if you wanted to just pick a few people. Less is more!
        And I’ll let you know in the future for my projects 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations on hitting and sailing past your goal! 🙂 Such an achievement.

    I’ve listened to the Mother Earth album, and liked it. I agree that sort of music does fit quite well with fantasy. My own playlist hasn’t been looked at in a while, too busy trying to wade through worldbuilding. But some of my favourite artists are definitely on there, and I think more will be. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Phoenix! 😀 😀

      I still remember the first time I listened to WT’s music. I was already a fan of Evanescence, but had no idea that other bands around the world were already doing the same style of music. So when I listened to WT’s Silent Force CD for the first time, my honest-to-goodness first thought was, “OMG! This is like the LOTR film score with a metal band playing along!!” XD

      Do you remember any artists that might be on your WIP’s playlist?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had the same thing with Evanescene. I first heard their song Bring Me To Life in the singles chart, and absolutely fell in love. I still adore their music now.
        I think there will by a few of their songs on the playlist actually, and some of the instrumental soundtrack music. There are a couple of tracks on the Avatar soundtrack that I really think fit the tone of some of the scenes. I’m not really sure about any others. I really need to sort that one out. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Well done on your progress! 🙂 As for cutting the words: I can relate. I’ve cut my novel from 130k to 120k in the second draft, and now it’s going down to 115k. But I think my biggest challenge was when I had to cut my short story: first from 7500 to 7000 and it seemed like an almost impossible task, then even more, to under 6000. By doing so, I’ve learned a lot about being conscise and throwing away extra “word fat” actually made the story stronger and better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can imagine how difficult it would be to cut words from a short story, compared to a novel. Because in a short story, every word matters. But it sounds like doing so has made you more confident in your ability to cut words from longer pieces. Good luck as you continue working on your draft!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Time Flies!: July 2016 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  8. (This is a late comment, sorry…)

    Wow, congratulations on that cutting! I remember from an old project that cutting can be really hard.

    I’m uncertain of how I’ll handle word-count with my novel, because it’s currently at 110k, but the thing is, I’m a bare-bones kind of writer, and there’s a lot of things I skimmed over that I need to go into more detail with in the next draft (plus, the plot kind of needs…a big overhaul), so I’m kind of worried that the draft will end up being closer to 150k when I’m done. I decided to worry about that later, though. Maybe it won’t actually happen!

    Also, thanks for sharing the soundtracks! I’ve listened to a few Within Temptation songs, so I’m curious to hear some more.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Omg CONGRATULATIONS! I’m so happy to hear about your progress. And admittedly a little jealous, because every time I try to cut down my manuscript, it starts growing instead. *moans* Maybe in my next draft I’ll have more success, though. I appreciated your little paragraph of encouragement there. ;D ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Brianna! I’ve actually crossed the next milestone since then, so the next Chronicles are scheduled for September 6th (progress report) and 8th (tips). 😉

      And you’re welcome. I know some writers struggle with cutting their word counts, so I wanted any readers who felt that way to know and believe that it really is possible. You have to have the right mindset for it; and, like you implied, sometimes it’s hard if a particular draft’s goals don’t help with word-cutting. Maybe it might be better to wait until the next draft to do so?

      Liked by 1 person

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