At this posting, Swordsmaster (my first REAL attempt at a novel, for those of you who are new to my blog, or who my blog is new to, or who… whatever) has just slogged across the 43,000 word mark, which right now seems to be about 2/3rds of the way through the rough draft.
Not where I had hoped to be at this point. When I set my goals for 2015 at the start of the year, I said I would write my first novel. In my mind I was thinking (yes, that’s where it happens), “Sure, I can finish a novel inside a year – 70,000 words is well within my weekly 3,000 word goal (the best I’ve done has been half of that quota, but that still makes the 70,000 words a possibility.
I started writing April 1st (I did have other things to do – there are still some short stories in my goals that needed to be written, and I had to decide which novel I was going to write), and I was pleased at first with the progress I was making, but a month or so into it, the difficulties a novel would present to me began to become a reality rather than just fear (writers have to deal with fear all the time – that just seems to be part of the territory. It keeps us from even starting to write, and shuts us down, too.)
For one thing, when I write short stories, they’re … short. It takes me maybe a week, at most a month to write the rough draft. That isn’t enough time to lose track of ideas, characters – the feel/voice of the individual story. I make a pass for obvious errors (technical and narrative), and then another pass with a fresh eye a couple of weeks later, and I’m done.
I knew a novel would be different – more like writing my Jimmy Delaney detective series, or my Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire (Cats of War) series. In each of those I go months between finishing one story and beginning the next, and I have to reread what came before so the latest story still has the same feel. I accumulate more and more notes about the “world” I’ve created for each, and as the “history” grows with each tale, it becomes more and more difficult to keep track of details and maintain consistency. But I’m able to do it (with effort), I reasoned, so how much harder could a novel be.
I put a safeguard in place that I never use in writing short fiction – an actual OUTLINE. I’m taking far more extensive notes. I’m even drawing maps and layouts (the earldom, individual towns, and even some buildings.) But no matter how many details I think I’ve secured, there always turns out to be something I didn’t bother to keep track of now needs to be nailed down, and more and more notes appear in my margins reminding me to “make sure what I said about this in <<some>> other place.
The details are not the most difficult part – that falls to overall consistency, which this many words into the rough draft I’ve had to forgive and forget myself for. Part way through I decided that maybe I should be writing this as a YA (Young Adult) novel, and that impacted the tone of some of what I’ve written since. Then the fact that I’ve been at this now for over five months, stopping and starting again (to write a couple more short stories, or just because LIFE HAPPENS), results in a slightly different feel between sections, and even more difficulty remembering what came before. If I did not tell myself – “It’s okay, Bill – for now, just finish writing the story – you can go back and clean it up later”, I would never finish this draft.
It would be a powerful variation of that INTERNAL EDITOR problem that is the bane of all story-telling (you can’t write a word without telling yourself it’s not right and going back and fixing it and fixing it before a rough draft is even completed. You need that rough draft DONE so that the story will be there – THEN you can go back and clean it up (and try to avoid the infinite rewrite hazard.)
In previous postings (I’m not counting how many) I have already bemoaned the number of revisions/rewrites I believe this will result in. I’ve revised my plan to complete the first draft by end of summer (didn’t happen, obviously), and finish the novel by end of year (who was I kidding?), and changed it to a more reasonable FINISH THE ROUGH DRAFT BEFORE THE END OF 2015.
A blogger for Creatspace wrote that his favorite part of writing is when he gets to rewrite. I hope he’s right, because I know I’m going to get to do A LOT of rewriting. We will see; I do have my doubts about it becoming my favorite thing…
I’m thinking I must sound like some sort of masochistic whiner (“Come on Bill, NO ONE is MAKING you write”.) I really am enjoying the ride – I’m just venting and fighting back frustration with the inherent effort I didn’t have the wisdom to realize would be involved. I had some idea of what I was up against, but the reality is tougher than I gave it credit, and I wonder (loudly) if I would have started had I truly realized it, or would instead have chosen to just stay in my short fiction comfort zone.
But I did make the novel choice, and come hell (yes, it can be) or high water (okay, I can float), I will not quit (I NEVER tip my king); I will finish this story.
My next ePublication (“You Cannot Question the Dead”) will be due out this Friday – like my writing page, or follow me on Facebook, or Twitter, or this blog and you’ll receive notice when it’s out there.
My featured work this week is “Cat and Mouse” (My third Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire story, in which trouble at home and an unexpected visit from yet another enemy puts his whiskers in a twist) – here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/527214?ref=NoTimeToThink
Use coupon code KL64T to save 67% off the list price at check out on Smashwords (that’s right – only 99-cents!) The coupon is good through September 28th. Enjoy!