Drafting the Novel: recap
The first novel I’m counting into my 10 novels in 10 years project is now a finished rough draft. The next step is to hand it out to my first readers and then ignore it for a month or two. In December I’ll revise it and write a query letter or ten to start the agent hunt in January. And in Jan I’ll also start novel number 2 in the project (or really, finish it, since I’m 3 chapters into it already from before).
Chwedl came in at 86,560 words. I was aiming for 100k, and clearly fell short. I’ve let my first readers know that I’d like to ideally add about 10,000 words to the book and asked them to especially point out places where they feel scenes/descriptions/whathaveyou can be added in a way that will help and not bloat the novel. 87k is a little short, but in the end, if it comes out there, it comes out there and I’ll just have to sell a shorter novel. At least it isn’t 120k, right?
I learned a lot about my process on this novel. I like to write in spurts, which I already knew. I have trouble with middles and tough emotional scenes. One of the major climax moments in the novel took me nearly two weeks to write of working on it 5-9 hours a day, every weekday. It’s only about 4k words long. I was paralyzed with fear that this part wouldn’t come out exactly perfect and thus break the entire ending of the novel which sort of hinges on this moment. Eventually, I said screw it and made myself stop deleting what I’d drafted and leave it as is. It’ll need work in the revisions, but that’s what editing is for, after all.
I also made a huge mistake during the writing of this novel that I do not intend to repeat EVER. I wrote the first half and then promptly got stuck. Instead of muddling through it as I should have done (and eventually did), I put the novel aside for nearly 8 months. While I got plenty of work done in that time on short stories and I think greatly improved my writing skills, the novel sat. By the time I got back to it I’d forgotten a lot of world details and spent a lot of time rereading notes and fixing continuity errors in the new writing (like shoes, how did she lose her shoes? One scene she has them, then for the rest of the time she doesn’t, where did the shoes go? The novel had no idea). I eventually gave up trying to read back through hundreds of pages of text and started making bracket notes in text where I wasn’t sure about something (which leg did she break before? I’m still not sure…). I’d lost the tone, the diction, the threads of character. I’d lost my momentum.
I hope this won’t be a critical mistake, but it definitely means that I’ll have a lot more work during the editing process than I might otherwise. The only bright point is that I’m fairly sure the writing in the second half of the book is better because I’m a better writer now. I have a better feel for character and dialogue and I’m working on the whole actually describing things and slowing down for a longer work, where the beginning of the novel is probably written with a lot of skimming on details. Writing a novel and writing a short story are different things. Sure, some skills cross over, but it’s still more like the crossover between riding Dressage and riding Jumper. They take different levels of things, like description. In a short story, I try to only describe what I absolutely have to and to make any given sentence do as much work for the story as it can. In novel writing, there’s more leeway to paint the scene (though having things do double duty for character and plot doesn’t hurt, surely). I have to remember when writing a novel that I’ve got lots of space to build things up and draw out the picture. I think I got much better at it in the second half of the book.
One of the things I’ll be working on in the revision is slipping in better historical details. I used ‘fantasy generic’ for things like the clothing and general props. I have books on early Medieval clothing, and plenty of resources for other details like dishes, everyday implements, and food. There will definitely be some retrofitting in the descriptions to better reflect the era I’m going for, though I’m claiming this as a re-imagined ancient Wales, not the historic one, so I’m not going to be too anal about it. But I think details like this will ground a reader better and help make the novel more unique.
But for now I get to battle post-novel-enui. I have some ideas for how I’m going to do that, which I’ll outline in another post this week. (I know, two posts in a week, you’ll all be spoiled).
Of course, not helping is the 3rd quarter WotF results that are trickling in. I’m not in them, you see. No HM, no for rejection, no semi-finalist notification. I’m somewhat expecting a form rejection after rereading my story (which I also don’t recommend. Never reread something out on submission, seriously). But I’d be psyched with HM. No news though, this I am not fond of. The longer I wait, the more my hopes keep trying to creep up. Not sure why, but somehow the contest makes me far more nervous than the 7 other stories I have out on submission. Maybe because I know a few people who have won, and they are really going places with their careers. It sure would be nice to do well in WotF.
All right, enough angsting. I’m rewarding myself for finishing the draft by reading a ton of books and playing a ton of video games. Soon enough the rest of the work will start, but in the meantime, I have to go buy a spaceship and mine some asteroids.