My novel is at 41,347 words now. I’m averaging about 1800 words per day, on pace to hit 50K words on November 28.

I recently decided to tackle the most challenging part, which was to figure out the Q factor and how I’m going to end the story in Act 3. I opted to just start writing to see what came through even though I didn’t have a good idea when I started.

What is the Q factor? The Q factor is a reference to the Q character in James Bond. It’s when Bond is given some gadget early in the story that he can use to escape a difficult trap later on, like a pen that houses a laser beam that can cut through bars. Q is the character who gives him those gadgets. A Q factor in a story is a callback to something earlier that the main character can use to solve a major problem later on. An example is when Obi-wan reminds Luke to “use the force” while attacking the Death Star in Star Wars.

I’ll have to toss out most of what I wrote for this part, but it led me to see a better way to frame the story so I can bring it to a strong and compelling close. I’d been considering a certain change for a while but wasn’t sure if I should do it, but now I think it’s the right way to go. I basically have to change up which character I define as the protagonist.

There are two main characters who are in almost every scene together, so the previous scenes I wrote still work regardless of which character I intend to be the protagonist. But I’m only seeing a good way to end the story if I reframe which one I’d label as the protagonist. Then it gets pretty interesting. It’s a bit unusual, but I think it’s more promising overall.

It’s similar to the framing in the movie Avengers: Infinity War. The protagonist is actually Thanos, not the Avengers. Even though he’s the bad guy, the story is really about his journey, and the Avengers keep antagonizing him along the way. Thanos benefits from the amazing Q factor at the end that lets him seize victory from the jaws of defeat – the Time Stone. If you’ve also seen the movie Doctor Strange, then there’s an extra nice payoff for that particular Q factor.

It still feels like the most important thing I’m doing for this first draft is to figure out the characters and their motivations. Secondly I’m exploring story possibilities in the form of scenes that could happen. I’m gradually building a jumbled tree of messy branches that may all connect to the same trunk, but the final story isn’t going to include every branch. I still have to explore enough of the tree to grasp where the most interesting branches are. The final story I actually write will be a small subset of the story possibilities that I’ve explored.

I like using a mostly pantser approach for this first draft. It’s good to have so much flexibility in how I approach this since I don’t already have a clear grasp of the story I’m telling. I know some of the major pieces but not all of the minor ones. It’s useful to throw more words onto the screen each day and then read them back the next day. I’ll end up throwing most of these words away, but they’re helping me to discover a compelling story within the possibility space.