Geez… what’s taking you so long?
How many times are you going to rewrite it?
It must have been really bad if you have to keep editing it.
These are just a sampling of the questions and comments I get from people who know I’m working on a novel. I suppose it’s all a part of the publishing process, but it’s hard to explain just what it takes to write a novel to someone who’s never even tried to write one. Maybe an anecdote will help shed some light on the matter.
A hundred years ago, I attended a writer’s workshop led by the great Anne Lamott. She came out on the stage, this tiny middle-aged white woman with dreadlocks, and began her opening spiel. It went something like this:
“I just finished writing the crappiest, most god-awful, horrible, terrible, putrid, vile, piece-of-shit first draft of a novel I’ve ever written.”
This is what I took from that:
“Holy shit! First draft of a novel? WTF?”
You see, I had no idea there was such a thing as a first draft. I thought you had to get it right on the first go. In truth, authors might spend years honing their books before they even send them out to an editor.
When I began writing Broken, the story bore little resemblance to what it’s since become. In fact, the only things that carried over were the names of the three main characters and the location of the story. But after I got a few chapters into the first attempt at bat, I realized the story was just pure crap. The characters got their makeovers and the plot took on a whole new life. After months and months of writing, I finished what I considered my first draft—and then I tossed it into the proverbial garbage bin.
What, you say? Why would you do that? Was it bad?
Nope, it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t the right story. It felt inauthentic. More than that, it wasn’t the story the characters were trying to tell me. I stopped listening to them at some point in the process, so it was inevitable that the story would be false.
Back to the drawing board.
Where am I now?
I’m listening to my characters tell their story… taking dictation and working on writing something worthy of the time and effort we’ve all put into this.
So, stay tuned…