I’m slowly learning the processes of completing a novel. For years I’ve tossed around ideas for various stories that fade away after a few thousand words, and never reached a finished draft. Now that I have one, and continue to push through a second draft, the path forward becomes a little more apparent.
You can’t truly know what methods work best for you until you actually work through them. It is an easy thing to see what other writers do and decide that, yes, that shall be MY path, too. In reality, it probably won’t work and sets you up for failure. Mostly because it puts you in a box. My first drafts suck because I didn’t do all the things that famous writer does on their first draft! Ugh, I’m so far behind. This will never work. If you’re like me, you’ve been down that side road.
I remember watching a writing lesson by one of my favorite authors. He discussed the writing and editing process he used, and categorized what each draft accomplished. Another author was completely different, preferring a much cleaner first draft that needed mild edits and a polish.
If I tried to follow that advice, I’d never have a finished product. That’s not me and by trying to adhere to either method, forces me out of my own rhythm. That is what I needed to find. Rhythm.
I wanted to write a story and I did, but it had holes. Big ones. I was okay with that because I made daily progress, which in turn lifted by spirits. The word counter kept going up, pages were written and an ending came together. Endings can be hard when you’re not use to getting there in the first place!
The biggest truth I’ve learned: You can’t edit what isn’t there. I’ve heard it many times, but it is deadly accurate. Deadly, because I’ve had so many stories die in my head or on paper before their time was up. Perhaps it wasn’t ready to be written, but I can’t deny how many times doubt, fear and frustration played a factor. I can point to the box I put myself in, because I couldn’t write the same way others did.
It’s silly to think about it now, but if I fell into this trap, I’m sure others must be dealing with similar situations.
Once I allowed myself to cut the self-imposed expectations for what writing looked like, I found that I liked it a bit more. Even though I had holes like Swiss cheese in the story, I had a beginning, middle and an end. I can edit that!
The second draft had some mixed thoughts swirling in my head. I think I was expecting to write clean and crisp chapters, focusing more of my attention on description and dialogue. Nailing down characterization, and making the prose really pop.
No. Not happening second draft. Sorry, that’s going to be draft three it seems.
I just finished chapter six of the second draft and I realize what MY method really is. It’s as simple as finishing the story. That’s it. All those changes to the plot, the magic system, those skeleton chapters? They just need to be fleshed out and put into place. The only expectation I should have for draft two is to have a story that reads from beginning to end and makes sense. It should be a consistent story.
Early into my second draft my frustration was high. I wasn’t getting the result I expected, but my expectations were unrealistic. My novel won’t be ready to submit after two drafts. Hell, I don’t think I want to have any feedback on it yet. I’d rather spend time getting the story right this round, then worry about a polish next time. By draft three, the story should be in place and I can shift the focus from what I want to say, to how I say it.
I am eager to get there, because I have a feeling I’ll have learned a great deal more by the time I get there.
I’ve got some excitement for writing these past few weeks, and this stems mostly from the progress I’ve made, just by trusting myself and all of the things I’ve learned over the years. The process is molding itself at this point. New things continue to spawn fresh ideas for the story and I find myself adjusting the editing outline as I go, which is surprisingly fun to do. Even with this outline already having what I want to write and edit, I’m finding little windows that need some discovery and that gets back to my roots when I first picked up a pen.
On to chapter seven.