Achievement unlocked: novel completePosted: August 18, 2013
I finished my work in progress last night. Which makes me feel like this.
This book (working title: Melaina, which is the main character’s name because I suck at naming things) is 73k words and took me seven months to write.
By comparison, Isla’s Inheritance was about 80k words when I first finished it, and it took twice as long. I cut about 10k words from it in the editing process.
The difference in my writing speed is not that I have more time — I’m still a single parent with a little boy, and I can still only write after he’s gone to bed — but because I’ve learned that FIRST DRAFTS SUCK.
When I was writing Isla’s Inheritance, I obsesssed over the beginning. I knew you really had to land the beginning or your potential writer/agent/editor wouldn’t get any further to discover what your writing was like once you’d found your sea legs. And I knew there was something wrong with the beginning of my book, but I couldn’t fix it.
It wasn’t until I’d done several rounds of edits, received a bunch of agent rejections and had feedback from a pitching contest that I finally amputated the first couple thousand words from the start, and deleted an entire chapter in the first 10k words. It took me that long to gain perspective on it and see what the problem was.
And that’s why it’s not worth wasting a lot of time analysing your book in the drafting stage. You don’t have the perspective.
Also, drafting (despite what anyone tells you) is HARD. It requires dedication, finding the time to sit down when you’ve got washing to do or would rather be reading or sleeping. (Sleeping figures pretty highly for me.) I personally find dialogue easy and a lot of fun to write, but transition scenes? I have to make myself write them, and reward myself with cookies.
I’ve learned to cut myself some slack. Sure, what I come up with (especially during transition scenes) may be clunky and not flow properly. But I don’t let myself get too tied up in trying to fix it as I’m drafting. I will do one read over of what I wrote the previous session, and edit as I go. Then I move on. So far the only additional editing the bulk of Melaina has seen is when I’ve had an idea later on that’s involved a bit of foreshadowing; when I’ve edited that in I’ve often tinkered with the section I added it to.
There are hokey cliches in there (“my heart thundered”, “my pulse raced”). There are ridiculous phrases (for some reason I seem very fond of writing things like “my eyes roamed the room”, despite the anatomical impossibility of such an act). But that’s what editing is for.
It’s clunky but it’s done. The bones are there. You can’t edit nothing, and now I have something to polish.