In life, there are situations embodied by multiple stages. We talk about the stages of grief, stages of becoming an adult etc…and I’m wondering if anyone who’s writing a novel shares what I’ve found to be the stages of writing a novel.
Today I’m excited to be just short of 90k words in my novel, Oldsters. At the same time, however, it’s intimidating. I remember when I first started out, long before I ever thought about word count. I think it was when I hit chapter 8 and saw that I was at about 15k words that I started thinking I may have something real. I had started two other novels before Oldsters, the first one sits in my files at about 9k, and the last one I gave up on at almost 7k.
When I started Oldsters, my past two experiences didn’t inspire much hope. This first stage is tough…wanting to complete a novel so bad, and knowing you have the talent to string words together well enough – just not believing in your ability to go the distance. The first stage threatens to suck the creativity out of you, trying to fill you with self-doubt. SHOVE IT OUT OF THE WAY – TOSS IT OVER YOUR SHOULDER AND DON’T LOOK BACK!
But then, something miraculous happened…I kept writing, and the word count just kept increasing. Before I knew it, I had scene after scene, and chapter after chapter. I was at the end of Act I, and just topped 50k words. I was moving beyond ducking my crew of characters out of their retirement center and down Route 66 into the second leg of their journey. I had accomplished a lot in this first part of the book – and I let myself soak up some of that accomplishment before moving on.
Then comes the second stage. You’ve got a decent amount of work done, but you’re in the middle now, and this part takes some really hard work. You have to think about being consistent, and making sure every scene has a purpose, as well as a spark that makes the reader want to keep on reading. It was easy to introduce your characters, and set up their journey…but now they’re off the road trip and things have to keep moving at a pace that makes sense. Slowing down is good, but not too slow. Again, a lot of hard work. This stage will be where you ask DO I REALLY WANT TO DO THIS? I mean, I work all day and I come home. Sometimes I’d like to just hang out with my teenage daughter and watch Netflix, go to the beach etc…why do I feel the need to create this piece of art? Then I think about how a couple of my characters are asking themselves the same thing, and I realize I want to finish this. TACKLE THE BEAST OF APATHY AND THE ORDINARY LIFE – ACCOMPLISH THE DREAM!
You’d think that these obstacles would be enough right? But apparently that’s not the case. Now I sit at 90k words and am wondering, how do I wrap it all up? I don’t want an epic novel here, I want to stay under 110k words – but the longer I write, the more excited I am by what I have. The better I’ve become and it’s taking longer than I expected to come to “The End” – in fact, I put myself to sleep most nights thinking through the rest of the book in my mind, visualizing the outline for Act III that I’ve changed a few times as ideas seem to spring forward without any hesitation.
How do I save myself at this stage? I kept asking myself this question, and finally this sentence came to mind:
“Quit worrying about length,
and just tell the story!”
How funny is it that I just now, after adding this picture to my post, realize that I misspelled ‘worrying’! I’m chalking that up to me rushing to figure out a way to cruise through this crazy stage :).
But seriously, how much easier could it be? Why do we impose such measures of impotence and frailty upon ourselves? I don’t want to plant weeds among the blooms. **The hearts in the words aren’t mine…I came home one day to find them and knew my daughter wanted me to realize this dream too…enough said – STAGE CROSSED. JUST TELL THE STORY!
I’m thankful that I love to write, and to read great works by other authors. It’s the stuff I’m made of. Write on…