Writing a book has been a crazy adventure.
Before I dropped my hard drive a couple of years ago, I had five or six endings stretching all the way back to when I was in high school. Here’s what would happen – I’d get an idea for an explosive, no-holds-barred, awesome novel ending. I would slap together a vague concept of everything EXCEPT the actual story – I’d have characters, sometimes even a goal and hey, a conflict. But never a real, fleshed-out story. I would get over excited about the world’s most awesome ending* and I would write it.
And then it was over. As soon as the ending was written, the story was done. I’d seen it end – who needed to write the rest?
Short stories and poems were always easier. I tend to write those in one sitting. Editing them is easy, because they’re encapsulable; I can hold all of a short story or poem in my mind.
But oh my god, novel editing.
Writing the novel was a slow process. I work full time, and this year was a crazy transition year at work. If you’ve read my previous posts about writing the novel, you know I was writing it in chunks between 4 and 5 in the morning, before getting ready for work. It’s odd enough to have such a small amount of time during which to shove the brain back into story production mode. It turns out that going back and reading over what I wrote in those tiny slivers of morning is even more of a strange ordeal.
I’ve got contradictions and discontinuity all over the place. Lots of things don’t really make sense in the context of other things. Turns of phrase that seemed poetic or profound at 4 in the morning don’t fare as well in the light of full consciousness.
You know that scene in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World where Wallace tells Scott to break up with his fake high school girlfriend, and Scott whines in reply “But it’s haaarrrrdddddd“? That’s how I feel about editing. But I’m going to do it, because that means I get to date Ramona Flowers. Or whatever.
It’s slower going than I thought it would be. I thought it would just be cleaning up sentences and cutting crap, but I have to fix continuity issues, which means flipping around in my printed manuscript and marking the crap out of it with “wait, I know this, but how do THEY know this?” and “hold on, that’s not what he says 300 pages from now” and things like that.
However, I think the beginning will give me the most trouble, as I wrote a huge hunk of scenes individually for each of three characters before I really got to know them and started jumping from character to character as appropriate. I had to grow into them, and into their story. So slicing up those three big chunks and intertwining the scenes is proving to be tough; there’s a lot of dreaming in a society that worships The Dreamer, and I don’t want the book to read like they’re asleep all the time and not also living normal, daytime lives. So that needs some work.
But once I get past the first 100 pages or so, it should get better and be more of a straight cleanup job. I think. We’ll see.
For all the work involved, it’s kind of exciting to know that I’ve not only finished writing a first draft, but I’m bringing it to the next level. Once I think it makes some kind of sense, it goes out to my beta readers – I’ve got a couple of amazing people lined up to do the job, so even though I’m sure their “this makes no sense at all” is going to hurt, it’ll also help me make it better, so that eventually I’ll have a draft that’s good enough to send out to agents.
The thought of trying to publish a book scares the living bejesus out of me, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Until then, all I want to do is focus on making the story the best it can be.
And oddly enough, despite all the work and all the time this one took, I’ve already got a couple more novels clamoring in my head. Odder still, I kind of want to do it all over again and write another one. In particular, I’ve got a siren and a kelpie screaming very loud things into my thoughts.
As always, a big thanks to The Artist’s Way and to Chuck Wendig, whose point-blank advice catalyzed me to get past myself and just write the damn thing.
A couple of years ago I would never have had the courage or the self-motivation to write on this level. Now I can’t seem to stop.
*Not really. At all.
What do you think?