I've spent the past couple of weeks starting to edit the first draft of my NaNoWriMo project 'WALLS' and it's been a bit crazy. I have had an amazing amount of support from friends on Facebook and especially people I know from uni who have been reading the first chapter or two for me and giving me some really helpful feedback. Those people know who they are, but I want them to know how appreciative I am of their help.
My goal at the moment is to make sure my opening chapter is as strong as I can make it and at the moment I need to work on my world building, not only in the first chapter, but throughout the whole story. I'm trying to pay a little more attention to the world building in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books while I read them (just under 200 pages into Clash of Kings). The world I am creating is very different to the one he has created, but the way he has created his is so phenomenal that I'm sure paying attention to the craft will be worth my while, especially since a couple of my friends who have read the first chapter or two have said they want to get a better feel of the setting.
One really good comment a friend made was that I should be able to communicate my setting through the everyday life of my characters. My main character, Mildred, is a refugee in a city surrounded by a wall that was erected to keep the citizens safe from the dangers on the outside, but the City itself is controlled by an invisible figurehead with strict laws and too many eyes and ears reporting back to him, and the self-granted right to change his mind as he pleases. Basically, Mildred is only there because she would probably be killed by the rebel army destroying homes on the outside of the Wall.
After receiving a bit of criticism on the world building issues, I read a bit more with that in mind and realised that my world building is actually really terrible. I mean, thank goodness this is a first draft or I would probably just bash my head with a brick and have it done with. I'm hoping that with the fact it needs fixing in mind while I continue to edit, I'll be able to make this story a whole lot better.
Which brings me to my next dilemma. At the moment, with the editing I have done so far to the first three or so chapters, and with a lack of world building throughout, 'WALLS' sits at 87,962 words. I wrote the initial 88-89K first draft in less than 40 days, but editing is a different story and that number is daunting. I'm trying to take things one chapter at a time for now, but even so, thinking how much work I'm about to have to do and how much longer it's going to get if I do it properly is actually really scary and I'm starting to have moments of self-doubt. Can I actually pull this off? Sure I can. At least, that's what I'm going to have to keep telling myself.
And then the word count presents a second issue: how long is too long? Because once I do this world building properly, it's only going to be longer. I don't even know what genre I'm supposed to classify it as anymore and I've stopped telling the people who are reading it for me because I want them to tell ME where they think it belongs, because I'm afraid I'll put it in the wrong category. I mean, it's for older teens and young adults, and I've been told that a good length is about 60K... but then there's The Hunger Games. And I think 'WALLS' is a little (lot) more sinister at times than The Hunger Games. I just don't know. I've always been of the mindset that length doesn't matter: a story should be as long or as short as it needs to be, to be told well.
This post has turned into a more of a venting/rambling train of thought which may or may not be coherent, so I'm going to cut myself off here and go to sleep.
How do you find world building when you're working with an alternative universe? Do you end up doubting yourself even though you've already come so far? Is a word count important to a story? How do you decide what genre or category your writing belongs in?