Thinking about the novel

There was a time when i was thought of as a very fast writer. I guess prolific is the word.

I used to finish 4 to 8 short stories a month. Even when i did NaNoWriMo, i found it pretty easy to churn out words and words and words.

Then fate slapped me upside the head. I went to Clarion and suddenly none of my words were good enough. I wrote my latest novel, “Losing Candyland” for NaNoWriMo. I churned out 80,000 words in 20-some days and came into December with an absolute mess of a novel. Garbage.

But garbage with some really neat ideas, and characters i liked! I could see an arc and story underneath the mess and could almost imagine how to bring it out. And horror of horrors, i actually LIKED it. Worse yet, it seemed to HAVE POTENTIAL. Combine that with a couple industry folks asking to see it when it was done.

Suddenly i wasn’t just churning out whatever goofiness in my head, i was WORKING ON A PRODUCT. With every tap of my keyboard i was flooded with visions of the novel this COULD BE. All while having nightmares of my peers mocking my prose, “um, how did YOU get into Clarion?” With every line i saw agents ripping it up after reading only 30 pages, 3 pages, the first paragraph! Unacceptable!

And yeah yeah yeah, “Hey Grá, never think about the final product. Just approach it one sentence at a time. Don’t get bogged down in the future.”

I know, i know. I got it. Easier said than done, yo.

So, after i finished the ABSOLUTE-GARBAGE-ZERO-DRAFT, i was really stuck, completely unable to motivate myself. Things got a little better when another writer graciously offered to look at the AGZD and give me comments.

That was the extra push i needed to actually write on the damn thing at all. The deadline to get things to her motivated me to at least clean up the manuscript and take out the incomprehensible stuff. I was left with about 40,000 words of really bad prose over a still-interesting-to-me story. After the dust settled, i was left with ACT I and the frayed bits of ACT II and III.

From the critique of the ACT I mess, i rewrote the first two chapters. I felt like i could at least call them “Draft 1.” Things were looking up.

Then i stalled out again. I tried submitting chapters to my writing group, the Wordos, as a motivator, but i crashed and burned after submitting those first two chapters.

So now what?

My friend Ray says, “Just write it.” Get to 80 to 90 K of “Draft 1”, get to THE END. Then maybe you get to stress about the missing visualizations, the character inconsistencies, the plot holes, the clunky prose and bad dialog. That's stuff you do in “Draft 2.”

You don’t get to think about agents till “Draft 3.”

So fine. I’ll start on Chapter 3. Work my way through the critique notes. When the notes run out, i’ll work from the AGZD. When the AGZD runs out, i’ll write new prose till i get past 80 K to THE END.

Ok, wait, that’s not a plan, that’s a goal.

Fine, here’s the plan:

The novel is now a part time job. Three hours a day, five days a week. I don’t think about word count or quality. I just write the thing, make it as good as i can, but know that it’s still a Crappy-First-Draft. To keep myself honest, i’ll post a completion percentage here everyday, but that's not the goal either.

The goal is: To write. On this. Till it’s done.

Wish me luck.

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