Current word count: 204K, 32 chapters.
Book four is obviously swelling in size to become the largest book yet in the series. I've just finished the second of three major acts, and have been chewing on how to pull off the third act for months now. Alexandra is, as you may gathered, doing a bit of traveling in this book, and originally, I planned to have her spend a lot of time in one non-Charmbridge location, and then spend a lot of time in another non-Charmbridge location for the climax.
For various reasons, the transition just was not working in my head, and I could not figure out how to execute the scenes and specific events I had in mind. Moreover, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the book was going to be just too sprawling and unevenly paced -- almost as if I were putting two separate storylines in one book.
So, the bottom line is I've pretty much decided that that second major arc does not belong in book four. It will get pushed back to book five.
This is good news in that, theoretically, it means book four will be less bloated. (And finished sooner! :)) I don't think AQATSA would come in under 300K words if I continued with my original plan.
It's bad news in that not only do I have to rethink a few things, but the book as I planned it has structural problems, so some stuff I've written will need to be scrapped.
Overall, I feel good about making these changes, but there are still an awful lot of plot points (both for this book, and laying the foundations for the rest of the series) that I'm struggling with, and I still have recurring "I've just written 5,000 words of crap" feelings.
Also -- there are a lot of multi-page conversations. I think there is more dialog in this book than in any of the previous ones. Since I haven't yet gone back to reread it all, I'm not sure what this will do to the pacing. It's just another thing I'm fretting about... am I bogging the whole story down with too much talking, not enough action? Fret fret fret...
Here are the final character sketches based on the roughs I posted a few days ago.
Overall, I like them. To be perfectly honest, though, I think the rough sketches were somewhat better representations. Everyone seems to have aged a few years in the inked versions, and Anna's picked up some extra weight around her face. Still, I'm very happy with the artist's work. (She does seem to like drawing large feet, though!)