Since last November 1st I’ve been consumed by writing the rough draft of a novel I’ve had in my head for years. More than once I’ve attempted to write it but with disastrous results. A lot of what I considered to be past failures was due to not having enough confidence in my abilities as well as being intimidated by the story itself.
Feeling slightly more comfortable in my abilities and with the idea that the rough draft is going to be a mess, I took the plunge. I knew the novel would not be done in 50,000 words nor would it be it completed in November. That was okay. At first I thought it would be done by the end of December but well, December being what it is, I missed that deadline. So then I pushed my deadline out to the end of January. But January 31st came and I was still nowhere near being done. Finally, I set an absolute deadline of February 28th. No matter where I was at I would call it good for now and set it aside to marinate.
Writing is hard work both mentally and physically. It may seem like easy work. After all it’s just pen to paper or fingers on a keyboard, but when I say it is physically demanding it’s the sore wrists and fingertips. It’s the sore back and shoulders from sitting in a chair, no matter how comfortable it is, for hours at a time. It’s the blurry vision from staring at paper or a screen.
Mentally, and yes, emotionally, writing, especially a rough draft of a novel is trying. I prepared as best I could before November but even that wasn’t good enough. What seemed to be like a simple scene, something I thought I could write in a day or two, often snowballed into several days. It felt like there was no end in sight. Emotionally it’s taxing to do justice to the characters. To try to put myself in their shoes and see life as they do is exhausting and frustrating. In a good way.
The biggest thing that slowed me down was about midway through January I had a plot epiphany. It was a biggie, too. So big that it essentially rendered worthless most of the middle section I’d already written. However, in terms of the overall story, it worked a lot better. It was great but also disheartening to think of countless hours, numerous days, and thousands of words already written as useless. It also meant there would now be hours, days, and thousands of words needed to redo the new middle section. It took me a few days to be okay with the idea that no, those weren’t wasted days and words. If I hadn’t done those I wouldn’t have been able to get to a better plot.
It was at this time, too, fatigue started becoming an issue. My mind was becoming saturated. I also began doubting if it was all worth it. I knew all the glaring errors with the story as it stood. I knew there would be a lot of additional research which will likely change the story further. With all of this floating in my head, motivation to just finish the damn thing got more difficult. To help with story fatigue I started taking some days off and tried to work on a short story. That seemed to help some but when I came back to my WIP, I simply didn’t have much left in the gas tank.
Even though February 28th came and I hadn’t completely finished the rough draft (it has a beginning, middle, and end at least), I was okay with that. At this point, it is over 155,000 words. Bloated but a fair amount of that will be excised due to it not working with the new middle. There are also a lot of redundancies due to how I approached writing it.
Now I let it sit for a few months while I work on other things before beginning the even slower revision process. I also learned that no matter how well prepared you are before tackling that rough draft the unexpected will pop up to mess with your plans. It’s not a quick or easy road in writing.