Update on my novel

Since so many of you (okay, no one) have asked, the novel is progressing slowly but surely. I’m probably within about 10,000 – 20,000 words of the end. Why is it going slowly? There are a few reasons:

  • The NaNoWriMo “Write-’til-you-drop” model works well for one month. Beyond that life just refuses to be ignored any longer. And 50,000 words is a very short book.
  • My original outline has deviated so much I’m still trying to figure out how to end it.
  • I’ve been listening to the Writing Excuses podcasts for the past several weeks and have identified so many weak areas in my writing that it’s a constant temptation to scrap this attempt and just to back and re-write already.

I am determined to finish this draft, however. As much as I’d like to, I think that to go back and start over now would set a bad precedent. I don’t want to become a perpetual re-writer that is always re-writing and never finishing. I’ve never written anything this lengthy or complex yet, and I think it’s important that I plant the flag at the top of the mountain, so to speak, before I move on.

I’ve been learning a lot through this process. I don’t think I really learned all that much from my previous attempts. Part of this is because of the podcasts mentioned above. Listening to experienced, published authors describing what it takes at the same time as I’m doing it myself gives the whole exercise a “live-fire” feel to it that drives the points home. Just a few things I have learned:

  • There are two types of writers, or perhaps two polarities: The discovery writer and the outline writer. Discovery writers get the idea, and then dive in and start writing on their idea and see where it takes them. Outline writers plan everything in advance, and then start writing according to the outline. Most writers probably hit somewhere between those to extremes.
  • I’m still working which type I am, but I’m convinced I need to at least move more toward the Outline end of the spectrum. Though I planned far more than I usually do before I started, it was nowhere near enough. It’s certainly not an insurmountable problem, as I can flesh it out a lot more in the re-write, but having done more homework up front would have made this a much better novel to this point.
  • Good characters with depth do not happen by accident. My characters are not yet very good.
  • While too much description is just as bad, I am nowhere near that yet. I need to describe more.
  • I wrote this novel once before, except it was a sci-fi novel instead of fantasy, the hero is a blacksmith instead of a lawyer, and my female protagonist was even weaker then. It’s taken me 20 years to realize the parallelism.
  • It’s amazing the number of ideas I’m getting for other stories while I can’t do anything with them yet. Of course I’m writing them all down, but a fourth reason why I’m writing so slowly is because I’d rather go write one of these other ideas and have to keep telling myself, “Later!”
  • I like to write, and wish I had longer stretches in which to do so. I can make a lot of progress in an hour, but I’m afraid the flow gets disjointed from the frequent stops and starts.
  • When in doubt, take a shower. Most of my best ideas come while I’m there. If I ever go pro I’m getting a water-proof laptop.
  • My daughter has come to think writing is cool.
  • I think I want to publish as much to show my kids that it’s possible as I do to make some money.
  • My wife is very patient with my writing.
  • There are lots of people willing to read your drafts to give you feedback. Learn who is best for what and bring them into the process at the right time.
  • I may have inadvertantly moved to a sci-fi/fantasy writing mecca. Published authors even pop up at church!

I’m hoping to have this draft finished within another month. I’ll keep you posted, whether you care or not. 😉

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2 Responses to Update on my novel

  1. Jeannine says:

    Thanks for the update. Finishing is hard. I’ve finished a couple of my NaNo novels (meaning I wrote the words The End), but most of my stories are waiting for endings because I am a discovery writer. In this year’s novel I discovered some of the answers to questions first asked in a novel started years ago. Someday I will finish all the books in this series, but for now, I’m just enjoying the discoveries.

    • Thom says:

      Even though I think I should be more of a outliner in my writing, I have certainly enjoyed the discovery approach. My characters have surprised me on several occasions and put me in spots that required some serious showering to resolve. For the most part I think the story has been better for it, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t have reached the same conclusions had I put in more planning up front.

      It has helped to keep me going after November that I teamed up with a writing buddy who also wanted to finish his novel. We keep prodding one another and giving advice to make sure we don’t give up.

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