Life Cycle of a Novel: Slow and Steady

There are a lot of approaches to writing a rough draft. Some do it in spurts, writing tends of thousands of words in a few days. I’m more of a slow and steady kind of writer. I set measured weekly goals that I break down into daily goals — although if I’m on a roll I try not to stop!

I don’t believe in racing to the finish. NaNoWriMo has become a phenomenon in this country, such that whether it’s November or not the general consensus is to write until a draft is done. To keep going, not looking back at the starting line, only looking forward at the finish line.

Again, that’s not me. I write in fits and starts, pushing forward only to take a few steps back. I may rewrite a chapter several times (like I did today) before moving on. I try not to sweat the little things, but I see the beginning of my story as a foundation for the rest, and I can’t write atop a crumbling foundation. Little cracks can be overlooked or patched later, but big ideas need to be fixed.

One thing I’ve noticed about going from draft to draft is that as true as it is that issues can be fixed in a revision, the fact of the matter is that the words I write first have a tendency to haunt me. Strangely, I’m not entirely about the words I write badly — it’s the ones I write well that I can’t shake in redrafts. It’s hard to let go of a brilliant paragraph, even if it no longer fits into what I’ve rewritten.

Now that I’m working hard on my 8th novel (well, that depends upon how you count — but I’m not counting the three in the novel graveyard), I feel less like listening to other writer’s “supposed to” stories with regards to drafting a novel. I don’t have to keep writing without looking back. Looking back is how I move forward. I’m definitely not passing that along as a “supposed to” for anyone else.

Trust your instincts, especially when it comes to rough drafts. This is usually the most fun part of the writing process. True creation is going on right now, and it’s YOUR creation. You own it. For me, it’s got to be slow and steady.

Posted in My Writing, Tips for Writers, Work in Progress.