I love to examine all the ways my writing has grown over the years. So, I’m going to share just a little bit about my writing journey, the methods that I’ve been developing over time, and how I’d like to improve upon them.
Book 1: Huntress
When I began my first manuscript in earnest, I was a new mom. As my son happily rolled and gurgled about on my living room floor, I sat next to him in front of my old laptop with a broken keyboard, and a MacGyver set-up of an even older desktop-keyboard and mouse set in front of it, and I wrote. It was painfully slow going (and the baby liked to bang on the keyboard, probably because it made his mom shriek), but I was doing it. Being the technological genius that I am, I lost about half of that manuscript, and spent a few painful months wallowing and wondering if I could ever pick up the pieces of my story again.
Long story short, I did, (and I tattooed “BACK UP YOUR WORK” on the inside of my eyelids) but by the time I was ready to commit to it again, I’d had another baby and was a busy mom to two young children. I needed to be more disciplined, and I found that the unearthly ruckus that a toddler and a baby can make are entirely unconducive to creative thinking. So, I carved out quiet time to write during naps and after the babies were asleep for the night. Finally, I finished the book.
It took a painfully long time, and afterwards, I figured out why.
I’d felt that so much was at stake in writing my first novel (primarily this question – could I even do it?), that I desperately wanted to get that first draft right. I needed everything to fall into place as I wrote it – a ridiculous expectation of a first draft. Of course, it didn’t work that way, but I was compelled to learn a lot about editing a manuscript.
Book 2: Truth Cursed
One more baby, several in-depth revisions, and a couple of short stories later, and I was ready to write another novel. It was different this time because I knew I could do it. This time, I knew that I was willing to make the inevitable mistakes, and plan for those subsequent drafts. I put that first draft in its proper place – as the draft that doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be written – and I had a lot more fun.
I had three children by this point, so nap-time and nighttime was when I wrote. My word-count goal for each week-day was an extremely attainable 1,000 words, and it was enough to get me through the draft in four months.
One of my goals is to become a better plotter. However, the method of light plotting at the beginning (a general outline containing the conflict, character goals, and desired resolution), followed by jumping into the writing and working out the rest as I went along, worked exceptionally well for this novel. The plot came together as I wrote, and even though my first draft was chock-full of contradictions and plot holes, I never turned back during that draft to correct them, but kept moving forward as if I already had. I kept a document full of notes of what needed to be corrected, changed, and figured out in the second draft.
I was delighted with the way the plot unfurled before me during that draft. The choice to keep it organized in my notes and in my head, but continue to charge ahead, was very freeing. Although challenging in the way that writing undoubtedly is, it was nothing like my first novel. I’d sweated over and struggled through Huntress, always doubling back to fix something, unaware of the knots I was creating for future pages.
I have a very helpful beta-reader (an excellent and exciting writer, herself) who read the first draft of this manuscript as a serial. She was always confident that I was working out the kinks, and was able to look ahead with me. Her suggestions were invaluable and joined my extensive document of notes for Draft #2.
My second draft was all about going back through and creating continuity, and making sense of the plot that had taken shape in the first draft. I handed it over to a second faithful reader, who helped me see it through fresh eyes. Mine were getting a bit blurry.
I made multiple revisions, and each time I read through Truth Cursed, it was with a different, very full checklist. Plot, character, continuity, line edits, world-building, trimming, etc., etc.
The organization that I’m able to control in my writing helps me balance the frustration that can grow when I can’t keep a lid on every disaster my three riotous children might conjure.
I left as much world-building as possible for later drafts. Another of my goals, for when I’m writing fantasy, is to be better at world-building at the beginning of the first draft, because this occasionally could be a set-back that affected the plot when I tried to fit it in later. However, I struggle to envision an environment until I know what my plot and characters will require from it. (In this way, writing historical-fiction gives me a lot to work with in the plotting stages in terms of researching the environment, which is something I appreciated about Huntress.)
So, those are just a few thoughts on my novel-writing journey and how my methods have evolved. I hope as I keep writing, I’ll keep growing and learning. I’ve been working on a short story this week, which in some ways is a very different ballpark, but similar in other unexpected ways. More on that another time.
I’d love to hear about the different journeys and methods that others have developed along the way. Thank you for reading!