Progress Report

Thought some of you might be interested to know I’m working away on Without Words (that’s undoubtedly going to be the final title, as I’m getting fond of it). In fact, if things had gone as planned, I’d be through the first draft now, but I’ve had a surprise.

You see I use Scrivener (see screen shot in last post) for a very basic, rough outline of a story before I write a word. I don’t follow the outline exactly. Things change as I go along and have additional, more/better ideas, but the outline helps me tell a reasonably coherent story, and it also helps me know I have a novel-length story.

So I started Without Words, and my outline had 25 chapters, which as I remember, without going back and looking, is about what Bad Man and Light had, and I expected a book along the lines of 8o-85,000 words. Right now I’m past 91,000 words, and I have four and a half chapters to go. So unless editing really reduces things, I’m going to have a novel in the 100,000-word range again, and that surprises me.

You see, here are the word counts for my existing romances:

          Eyes                   117,000
          Sing                    138,000
          Dancing               95,000
          Bad Man              85,000
          Light                    84,000

Of course different stories can be longer or shorter, but I really thought the reason Eyes and Sing are so much longer is that they were the first books I wrote, and with more experience, I was “tightening” my writing (this is held out as A Good Thing by writing gods and goddesses; writers are advised to tighten things all the time) and so subsequent books were shorter.

Either I’m loosening again or I never tightened to start with and Words is just a longer story—or something. Right from the beginning, bits I had outlined as taking one chapter turned into two or in one case three. Right now I have 40 chapters (and an Afterword) in my Scrivener binder, and for all I know that will turn into 41.

So that’s where I am. The end is nigh, but not as nigh as I expected.

~ Ellen


18 Responses to Progress Report

  1. Rosheen says:

    LiKe your posts. Loose or tight we really like your writing. I’m non to fond of long books (usually as they have way to much repetition and just plain padding) that being said I did not find eyes too long at all and will happily re read it with out skipping bits. This is because it is good writing. Happy the end is nigh, looking forward to your next book what ever the title. Cheers Rosheen

  2. Maddy Barone says:

    Glad to know the end is near. You tell interesting stories with unique characters. So different and so much better than a lot of what is out there. Can’t wait to read it!

  3. Gypsy says:

    I love a long story. It is fun to “stay a while” in the imaginary scenario. I look forward to Without Words and hope that you are smiling as you send forth your latest creation.

    Also, I am highly suspect of so many books that magically have 384 pages…..
    Did you ever notice that?

    Wishing you well,

  4. marna hughes says:

    Hi Ellen,  I’ve been waiting and hoping for word of another Rottweiller book.  Any chance?  I really, really enjoyed your first dog rescue novel and have hoped for another since.    I’ve always had a love of dog books since I was a kid and read Terhune’s series.  

    I have three rescues of my own, a GSD a GSD/Malinois cross and a sheltie.

  5. Regan Walker says:

    Ellen, I’d relax about the page count. Some of the best novels I’ve read are over 100K words. Just tell the story and your betas can tell you if it’s too long.

  6. Rosheen/Maddy – Thanks for the encouragement. I keep trying to write another that hits as many readers as hard as Eyes did. Maybe this will be the one. 🙂

    Gypsy – No, I never noticed a bunch at 384. Now I’ll be on the lookout for it.

    Marna – The next Rottie book is all outlined and partially written. I’m going to turn to it next and then try to put out one a year in the series from now on. So far I’ve never been able to work on a new book before the last one is done and published, but this time I’m going to at least try to turn to Rott Railroad when Word is with betas. As you probably know, cozy mysteries are usually shorter. As I remember Rott Rescue is about 75,000 words and I think that may even be a little longer than average for a cozy.

    Regan – I’m not worried about it, just surprised. Some of the old epic romances I loved approached 150,000 words, I think. But I guess you could say that of Sing, and it is epic-like since it covers a lot of time and territory.

    ~ Ellen

  7. P.S. Marna – I read all the Terhune books in my teens too. Probably I’m like most in that I loved Lad best, but Gray Dawn came close. I remember something Terhune had in at least one of his books about how when he died if he didn’t find himself somewhere surrounded by the dogs he had loved, he would have reached a place other than the one he intended. Often wish I could find that quote again. ~E

  8. Barbara Wadman says:

    Ellen, What can I say except, while I have loved all your books, I found Eyes and Sing to be such in-depth stories. These are the two I have read a number of times. Sing My Name especially was better read the second time when I really developed a deeper feel for the main characters. Did I read the book too fast the first time? Can’t say, all I know is I seemed to suddenly understand what adversities had to be overcome by the main characters and how, despite all, they struggled on in their lives. Too long? Not for me. Have you ever read Penelope Williamson? A wonderful writer with long books. Ellen, you just keep writing your way and I will keep buying what you publish. Who knows, this next book could be another Eyes which I have recommended over and over to friends and even bought this book a number of times to give as gifts.

  9. Hi Barbara – I don’t know if you do it regularly, but I have a tendency to read books that really hook me very fast and then reread them again not too long after at a more leisurely pace. The first time is for the story and after that it’s more nuances and characters.

    Since I’ve mentioned my cozy dog mystery here, I’ll admit to doing one-two reading like that with all Susan Conant’s dog mysteries (Malamutes) and also with Laurien Berenson’s (Standard Poodles). Some dog mystery readers are fussy as to breed, but for me a dog is a dog unless it’s little and yappy. Then I’d rather have a cat. 😉

    There are actually reviewers who say they liked both Dancing and Bad Man better the second time through. Both of those books have reviews where the reviewer upped her rating later after rereading. (Yes, I read my own reviews. It’s an addiction, what can I say?) The difference rereading made for those people surprises me because I don’t consider myself a particularly subtle writer, but it’s also gratifying. I’ve finally accepted that everyone who reads a certain book reads a different book because we all bring some part of ourselves to the experience.

    Yes, I’ve read Penelope Williamson, and agree with a lot of others that her The Outsider is one of the classics of our subgenre, even though ***SPOILER Stop here if you haven’t read it and plan to*** what I bring to a book means that nonsense at the end where he “accidentally” shoots her almost spoils the story for me. I have no pacifist tendencies and the whole big bad guns are evil thing annoys me. ***END SPOILER.***

    I think, however, I prefer the romances by Penelope’s sister, Candace Proctor, and I really, really love the historical mysteries Proctor is writing under the name of C.S. Harris now. She puts out one a year, and waiting for the next one gives me a taste of my own medicine in what people waiting for one of my books go through.

    ~ Ellen

    P.S. Even though I’ve been unfaithful in subsequent books, I still love Matt Slade.

  10. Regan Walker says:

    Ellen, I loved Sing–and your other books, too. Bring on the pages!

  11. Thanks, Regan. I’m at another sex scene right now and procrastinating again. Managed to not give in to the temptation to put [sex scene] in like that and skip it, but didn’t exactly write it tonight either. Read someone else’s book instead. This is another case of this book just growing in spite of my careful planning. I was writing along and all of a sudden realized, oh, rats, this is a place where it needs…. And even before that Chapter 41 showed up. ~E

  12. Morgan says:

    I am thoroughly ecstatic to learn you have another book to be released sooner than later. I have been extremely curious what your next project was going to be – genre, characters, turmoil and trials…everything even character names! What I really wanted to do was ask you as soon as I finished reading Into the Light last year, but I withheld and opted for patience. You’ve certainly baited me at this point, now I cannot not wait for a “blurp” of your masterpiece!

    Love learning of your writing process. It takes an immense amount of disciple to do what you writers accomplish!! Shorter or longer, your novels are my top favorites. As for the sex scenes, do what you gotta do as it pays off. Thank you for the updates!

  13. McD says:

    I was very interested in the word counts for your books, Ellen. I knew Eyes and Sing were longer books, but always put that down to your newbie status. But so glad that theory’s been debunked! 🙂
    Longer or shorter they’re all good….but really looking forward to sinking my teeth into your new (longer) book.

  14. Morgan – I didn’t mean to bait anyone, just figured a little info at this point would be welcome. I don’t have a blurb yet and no inkling of an idea for one either. Like titles, sometimes they come easy, and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.

    He’s Breton J. (Bret) Sterling, civil war vet who has been supporting his family with money from bounty hunting for the six years since the war ended. She’s Hassie Ahearne Petty, widow of a moonshiner who died from too much of his own product. (Sorry, those of you who want virgin heroines. Don’t have one of those in the works for quite a while. It’s part of my problem with writing about women who are so young and naive they bore me.) I know her name won’t appeal to some. I can’t even say I like it, but she came to me complete with name. That happens sometimes too and when it does, trying to change it is like trying to change the name of someone in your family you’ve always known – it just doesn’t work.

    Hassie also struggles because a throat injury as a child left her unable to speak clearly. She can write, but no one in her life except her mother has ever cared enough about what she has to say to make an effort. After all, she can hear, so she can do what she’s told. 🙂

    McD – You and me. Either my rambling button got switched off for a while and is back on now, or it’s all irrelevant. I’ve decided not to worry about it. If I come up with something that only makes a novella, I’ll write it, and same for the long ones. It takes the pressure off of having an idea and discarding it because there’s not enough story there. I’m still not planning to publish any of the short stuff as standalones, but I’ll save them they way I’m doing with the Eyes shorts and put out collections when there are enough.

    ~ E

  15. Corina says:

    Can’t wait to read “Without Words”. I check your homepage once a month in case you have news to report. This is HUGE news. I love your books, Dancing is one of my favorites of all time (I love native indian stories, but never really feel the author gets it right, YOU DID!! Eyes is THE BEST western romance novel I’ve ever read. I did some horseback riding in my life and reading about the horse race, how he handles horses, was a real pleasure to read. I love a hero that is a little bit of Bad.:-) Bad Man was right up my alley. So, whatever you ride it’s going to be bought the second it comes out. More words are even better, it will tight me over until you publish your next book.

  16. Morgan says:

    I check on your blog/website regularly (I suppose I enjoy everything you write!) and your progress report was thoroughly welcomed. Thank you for your willingness to share! You could have easily just reported you were writing a new book (which can be assumed nonetheless) and that alone would have baited me! To just state your writing/books bring me great reading pleasure is quite and understatement. I truly am looking forward to next masterpiece!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Waiting (I didn’t say patiently). I am so excited about WW and it doesn’t matter how long it is. The thing about your stories is that they are not padded with “fluff”. They are full of people steeped in character and each one a different kind of “yummy”. Cord & Matt being my favorite (today), it may be different when I re-read the others again. I don’t think I could resist any of your heroes. Although I’m jealous of them, I like your heroines also. Hurry!

  18. Hi Anonymous – Your comment made me realize it’s been a while since I posted an update, so I’m going to do that as a new post yet tonight. ~Ellen

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