Chronicling The Craft: Draft #3 – 60% Progress Report

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Plus, Four Songs from Leah’s Kings & Queens That Appear on the WIP’s 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’s post marks 60% completion of Draft #3 with another progress report and more songs on TKC’s novel playlist.

It’s time for another update! And you know what’s better that giving another progress report? Sharing the news that I’ve met my stretch goal for cutting TKC’s word count!!

Guardians of the Galaxy dance-off

Let’s dance, Star Lord!

To be honest, I’m not surprised that I reached this second goal so quickly. I was just over 2,000 words away at the 40% update; and with several overwritten chapters around the corner, it was bound to happen before this pair of Chronicles. But that doesn’t change how thrilled and relieved I am that TKC is now within the recommended word count for its genre (under 100K for YA fantasies by debut authors).

Today I’ll go more in-depth about where TKC stands and what happens now that I’ve reached my stretch goal. I’ll also introduce you to the music of melodic metal singer-songwriter Leah McHenry and share more tunes from the novel’s playlist. Ready?

The 60% Progress Report

I hit the 60% mark of Draft #3 last month when I was in New York City for Writer’s Digest Conference. (Which made the trip all the more sweeter!) And as of yesterday, I’m up to Page 240, which comes during Chapter 26. The latest statistics break down like this:

Number of Words Cut So Far: 11,847 (current total word count is now 99,107)

Number of Pages Cut So Far: 32 (current page count is 342)

Progress to Draft #3 Word Count Stretch Goal: Complete!

Baby Groot dances 2

And now it’s Baby Groot’s turn! 😀

It’s been an interesting 7 weeks of editing. I’ve deleted unnecessary words, made the writing more concise, and fixed other expected problems. But I’ve also edited the lyrics to a song I “wrote” for the novel (to fit its meter better), split a chapter in two because of its word count despite any editing, and done more research. (Knowing how my 17-year-old female protagonist would have to manage her “monthly friend” while on a quest had slipped my mind until recently…) My confidence has been riding a rollercoaster lately, too, so I’ve had to work harder on keeping my spirits high. But now that most of Draft #3 is behind me, I’ll hopefully start to feel the momentum of being “almost done” again.

So, what happens now that I’ve passed my word-cutting stretch goal? Some of the upcoming chapters are still a bit long, so more trimming will happen. But at this point, most of the significant cutting that was needed has happened, so I’m not going to stress a particular goal for the rest of the draft. And based on what’s left, Draft #3 might be between 95K and 97K when it’s done.

Finally, I’ve set a “soft deadline” of Sunday, November 20th for Draft #3. It’s the weekend before the American Thanksgiving holiday; and at my current rate, I should make it. Plus, the idea of finishing this draft before the holiday shopping season is AMAZING. Not having two big priorities competing against each other ought to make December less stressful. Let’s see what we can do!

The Keeper’s Curse Novel Playlist: Four Songs from Leah’s Kings & Queens

When I bought Leah’s latest album Kings & Queens last fall, I was merely looking forward to new music by this Canadian singer-songwriter. What I was NOT expecting was to find several songs that remind me of events in TKC. Yay! Plus, the album’s mix of symphonic metal and world music fit perfectly with the direction I wanted TKC’s novel playlist to take. The only difficulty I ran into was making sure I didn’t include the entire CD. 😉

Out of the six songs from Kings & Queens that are currently on TKC’s playlist, I’m sharing four with you today. If you enjoyed the Within Temptation songs from the 40% Progress Report, you’ll probably like Leah’s music, too!

“Enter the Highlands”

This is one of the heaviest songs on Kings & Queens, but it’s not lacking in melody or atmosphere. That’s one of the beauties of symphonic metal: It’s all about contrasts. Here, you get staccato riffs, swaying rhythms, and tempo changes along with sweeping strings, lilting synths, and Leah’s harp-sweet vocals. Lyrically, the song is about lost civilizations and how humanity often repeats the mistakes of our ancestors’ past.

Why This Song? “Enter the Highlands” works well as the playlist’s “quest kick-off” song. It’s not a 100% fit lyrically (which is tough to guarantee for a novel playlist, right?). However, the idea of setting off for legendary places or uncharted territory matches the significance behind the scene that “Highlands” represents.

“Alpha Et Omega”

“Alpha Et Omega” is an unusual ballad (if “ballad” is the right word), but gorgeous all the same. Down-tuned guitars take a backseat to the symphonics, with the Middle Eastern influences giving the music an exotic flair. Listen closely to the lyrics, though. Do you understand what Leah is saying? Probably not – because she’s singing in Latin! The song contains verses from the Latin Vulgate. (Check out the lyrics here.)

Why This Song? One of Eva’s tasks in TKC involves translating an important document that uses an ancient alphabet. (Eva is the Council of Selanaan’s lead navigator and translator.) What better way to represent that task on the novel playlist than with a song that uses Latin lyrics? 😉

“This Present Darkness”

Another atmospheric track, “This Present Darkness” brings out the Celtic side of Leah’s sound. Harps, flutes, and keyboards abound, with soaring orchestrations that make you feel like you’re flying. Leah’s voice, however, is the centerpiece. From her mesmerizing verses to her crystalline power in the chorus, you really hear her at her best on this track.

Why This Song? Let’s just say the lyrics of “This Present Darkness” fit one of TKC’s Act III scenes. The music for the chorus and instrumental sections through also reminds me of the relentlessness and intensity of fantasy warfare. I love it when a song’s musical aesthetics reflects the lyrical content and themes – but that’s just the music geek in me!

“Palace of Dreams”

We go heavy again for this last track! “Palace of Dreams” is one of my favorite tracks on Kings & Queens, and for so many reasons. The maniacal energy of its intro and ending, the unexpected twists and turns in the music, strong guitarwork and solos, Leah’s stunning range and catchy melodies… It’s an awesome song from beginning to end, and I’m thrilled it fits the playlist so well.

Why This Song? I actually can’t tell you why I picked “Palace of Dreams” because SPOILERS. Just know that the first time I heard this song, I thought, “OMG! This is the perfect song for That Really Awesome Scene!”

What do you think of the Leah songs? Have you found entire albums that seem to reflect your WIP perfectly (or close to it)? Also, how is your WIP coming along? 

Looking for the editing tips portion of Chronicling The Craft? Check it out here!

18 thoughts on “Chronicling The Craft: Draft #3 – 60% Progress Report

  1. Another great, detailed article on your process, Sara:)). That is a huge achievement, managing to trim so many words from the m/s – and I completely understand your point about it then unbalancing the chapter lengths. When I go back to looking at NETTED, I’ll be paying particular attention to the chapter lengths and how they begin and end. I also love the songs:). Very much hope that September is a productive, yet relaxing month for you as I’m aware that August was a very much flatout for you. Take care, my dear friend:))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sarah. 🙂 And yes, like you said, August kind of ran me over like a freight train. But now that a few days have passed since my friend’s wedding (the last big event of the year), I feel more clear-headed and relaxed than I have in weeks. It’s a good feeling. 🙂

      I’ve sort of accepted the fact that some chapters in TKC will be longer than others, and some shorter. As long as there aren’t too many outliers, it shouldn’t affect the pacing too much (I hope). To me, it’s more important that scenes and chapters have a “natural” length.

      In the chapter-splitting case I mentioned here, the combined word count was about 4100 words. :S And I was struggling to find more to cut without compromising the integrity of each scene. So I moved the longest scene into its own chapter, and now it gives each scene more room to breathe and should be less overwhelming for the reader (again, that’s my hope).

      Liked by 1 person

      • And I think when you’re at your stage of editing, you can take those considerations into account. It sounds like it’s going really well, Sara:). Here’s hope September is a little less intense.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad to hear you met your word count goal! Well done, Sara! Lets dance with Baby Groot now! 🙂

    I hope life is calmer lately?
    August was a crazy time. My WIP is coming along well still, but all of the emotional drama of August did weigh me down for a while. At least it’s past now, and I’m getting closer to finishing the last draft. (Yay!)
    I still need to find more music for V.Chronicles. I like these new songs you added to TKC’s playlist!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! Thanks, E.!

      Yes, life is calmer now. It’s nice to have some “normal” things on the horizon for the near future, so I’m settling back into my routine and feeling more at peace now. 🙂

      That’s great to hear about your current draft! How much more do you have left now? Any idea when you think you might finish it?

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the Leah songs, too. Did you like any one in particular?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so happy that you’re progressing so well with your story and word counts! I rather love Leah’s music. Very atmospheric. Do you also listen to Nightwish? They remind me a bit of Within Temptation as well!
    Best of luck with the rest of your edits and hitting your deadline for this draft!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Faith! 🙂 I actually need to get on the 80% Chronicles very soon. I’m now at 75% through Draft #3, and I don’t want a 3-week delay in posting the updates this time. 😉

      I’m familiar with Nightwish, yes, but… they’re not one of my favorites. :S I like a few of their songs, but not enough to be a fan. I also saw them live during their North American tour for Imaginaerum (their last tour with Anette), and it was… interesting. Then again, I had really gone for their opening act, which was Kamelot… and I’m kind of a Kamelot fangirl. XD

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ❤ Leah – great song choices, as usual! AND GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY GIFS!!!

    I actually took Latin in high school, and while I'm not nearly fluent, I can usually figure out what people are saying (another random trivia bit – I actually have a Latin Vulgate on my reference shelf!). I love the sound of Latin, especially sung, and I always like the Latin pieces best in choir.

    BUT BACK TO THE POINT – I'm glad to hear that TKC is coming along so nicely. I always admire your dedication to perfecting your work, it's inspiring. Good luck with the rest of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 😀 I can’t believe I’m looking at the last 6 or so weeks of editing now. It’s crazy that The End is coming again.

      Ha ha, glad you liked the song choices and approved of the Latin one in particular. And GUARDIANS!! YES. 😀 I had done a “GIF theme” last time too, so when I was searching for animated GIFs on celebration dances, I found Star Lord’s and thought, “PERFECT.”

      Liked by 1 person

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  8. I’m so glad you’re incorporating every girl’s “monthly friend” in this story… YA fiction doesn’t do this enough!! It adds another level of realism and believability, just like showing your characters eat and sleep. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, it doesn’t! I’ve read a couple YA fantasies (Rae Carson’s Gold Seer Trilogy, Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Quartet, and Kristen Cashore’s Graceling realm stories) that brought in the “monthly friend.” Maybe writers avoid it on purpose, or forget to mention it altogether? Either way, a 17-year-old Fei girl about to travel for several months would be a concerned about how to take care of that, wouldn’t you agree?


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