Well, two chapters and some miscellaneous odds and ends.
That’s all that stands between me and a completed first draft of the novel I’ve been writing for three years. Why does it feel so far way?
This is one of those things non-writers often don’t understand. I finished “writing” the first draft months ago. Since then I’ve been “revising,” which also encompasses a good bit of rewriting. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m a fan of the clay sculpture mode of writing, wherein the first draft is (metaphorically) throwing a bunch of raw material onto an armature, and ending up with something that resembles a super-ugly, messy version of the finished product.
On review of that initial messy lump, shortly after congratulating myself on a finished first draft, I realized what I had was unreadable. Some chapters appeared twice, in two different forms. Vital plot details were revealed in three places, or sometimes not at all. Whole sections had been skipped, and I never returned to fill in the blanks. I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t even worth passing this mess along to test readers – their only comments would be things I already knew myself. Things like, “This doesn’t make any sense.”
So it was back to rewriting, which I initially aimed to complete by December 31, 2011. Then January 31. Then April 30. Now, I really believe I can realistically finish by May 31. But first, there’s those two damn chapters.They’re the two that have given me the most trouble all along. Both are chapters where a considerable block of exposition must be balanced with character and action. Both are turning points in the story, where the reader’s understanding of the characters, the plot, and the world will be changed. And dammit, no matter how many ways I’ve tried to tackle them, they’ve defied me. Right now both consist of a rough first draft, and a series of margin notes that are at least as many words.
This is the trouble with my process. I saved the most difficult parts for last, and now the final barrier between me and a finished book (well, first draft) is the part I least want to deal with. It’s like finishing a marathon by going uphill for the last 2 miles.
Sometimes I hear people talk about novels, and how they’re so much harder than short stories, and I’m a little surprised. Then I actually try to finish a novel, and I realize they’re right.