The 100k Barrier

Jan 25, 2017

Something of a milestone in the writing this week, the first draft of Elite Dangerous Premonition has hit the 100k mark against an approximate target of 140k.

Now some folks will point out, quite rightly, that word count isn’t everything. The old writing cliché – “Don’t worry about word count, worry whether your words count” may apply. Is the story working, is the plot sound, are the characters appropriately differentiated? All good questions. I’ll let my previous track record in writing speak to those points, I don’t intend to disappoint my readers. You can assume that is all in good shape, though there’s plenty of work left to do.

I use word count as a progress indicator because it’s straightforward and easily accessible. It works for me. Sometimes an author has the luxury of putting out a book ‘when it’s ready’, but often I see that as an excuse for ‘late’ or ‘never’. I find I work best under pressure, so I set myself word count targets and track progress against them. So far so good.

100k is a good slug of work and with just over 70% of the draft written it’s appropriate to ask “So how’s it going, Drew?”

On balance, I think it’s coming together well. I don’t encounter ‘writers block’ myself (I put that down to good planning), so I’ve been able to continue on at pace. I’ve been capturing player events as they occur and usually get to write those up a week or so after the event. My biggest concern at present is two fold.

The first is the character arcs. There are quite a few in Premonition by necessity and I need to ensure they all make sense and have a purpose. This isn’t currently the case in many places. It’s an editing job, but a big one.

The second is ensuring I wrap up certain threads in-game and from my previous book in a satisfying way. I’ve made a bit of a ‘rod for my own back’ on this one, because I weave in multiple meanings and layers and like to leave readers with a few unanswered questions. The trick is finding a balance between how much to reveal directly, how much to leave for readers to infer and how much to leave unanswered.

I will say, however, that this has been a much tougher assignment than my previous Elite Dangerous book ‘Reclamation’. That felt, at the time, quite ambitious, but it’s child’s play compared to the task of ensuring that ‘Premonition’ works well. Premonition is not only a book, it’s part chronicle, part lore repository… but it has to excel at all three without compromise. Polishing this up to a real shine is going to be a hard job.

Here’s what I’m juggling at present in addition to all the ‘normal stuff’ required to produce a book:

  • Monitoring social media and forums for updates about events occurring in game, summarising the important ones and deciding whether to (and how to) incorporate them in the story
  • Liaising with Frontier on story elements to ensure they’re correctly realised in-game, catering for delays resulting from bugs and planning in order to align with their release dates (in-game changes may require server and/or client updates to ED – which can only happen at certain intervals)
  • Contacting individual players and establishing information on their CMDRs so they can accurately be covered in the story
  • Maintaining a list of significant player impacts on the story, and re-writing elements to cater for their actions
  • Liaising with player groups who have been impacted by events in the story and providing them a little guidance on what that might mean for them
  • Taking time to join in twitch streams and podcasts, partly to promote the book, but mostly to stay in touch with the player base.
  • Generating GalNet articles to align with player events and overall story arcs and then going through a review process to ensure they tally with other GalNet content (this has to be done in way in advance)
  • Checking, and occasionally revising, lore in regards to Elite Dangerous, publishing what I can here when time allows
  • Playing the game to ensure I’m au fait with what’s going on and am familiar with new features
  • Maintaining an occasional presence on the forums etc.
  • Doing stuff which which I’m not allowed to talk about 😉

And don’t even mention the day job. 😉

Fortunately, being a ‘planner’, I’d worked out what this was going to look like before I started so I was ready for it, but it’s not been easy and, truth be told, I’m quite looking forward to it coming to a close. I’m not scared of hard work, but constant 60+ hour working weeks do take a toll. It has been a tough assignment, quite draining and stressful at times – and not just for me. My family deserves a huge vote of thanks for accommodating me whilst doing this, as do the all the fans who’ve cheered me on.

A point is approaching where the book must end. I expect the first draft to be complete at the end of March. This will be the end of ‘Premonition’ – a title which was chosen with great care to reflect the mood of ‘what happens next’.

Beyond this point the story of Elite Dangerous will obviously continue, as to whether that gets chronicled or not, we’ll have to wait and see. Feedback on how well ‘Premonition’ is received and the approach I took in creating it will doubtless have a bearing on how Frontier approaches such projects in the future.

For now though, I continue to write on, Commanders!

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Elite Dangerous Premonition - First Draft Complete
Signing off for 2016

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