Milestones in Writing a Novel

april 002Six years ago, I had no idea that I’d ever write a novel. In fact, I had no idea what the steps were, or what it would take to get a finished draft — let alone the editing, re-writes, world-building, crying, drinking and submitting that follows.

It’s April 2016, and this week (a year after starting the first draft) I sent The Felled Gods off to my alpha/early-beta reader (whatever she should be called at this stage.)

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Editing stories is generally where I get lost – tangled up in the mess of knowing something’s wrong, yet not being able to fix it.

The itch to fix up Planes Shifter is still very much present — every time I finish a novel stage (first draft, edit, beta reader feedback) on any project, I open up the PS manuscript and look over the notes of things to fix – just in case I might be able to remedy them now. But I’ve learned that I need to give it time, and to improve those skills on stories I haven’t poured my heart into for four years. Your first truly passionate-about and cared-for story is not the project to test out newly-acquired skills on, when every attempt to date has made the problem worse. Sometimes time is the best option.

Thankfully, in The Felled Gods, I’d prepared the plot, setting and character more thoroughly than ever before. I had photos of my characters, a whiteboard of the magic system scribbled up on the wall, a detailed outline and even pictures of the houses of my main clan. I had a much clearer idea of the path and even wrote the outline with two paths – so I had plotted both ‘versions’ already.

The Result? I finished the second half of a read-through in 24 hours: finding only major errors near the beginning, when I was still finding my feet. It’s a bit shorter than my usual first drafts, but I know I tend to under-write description, there will be foreshadowing to add in, and I need a new beginning scene at least, so that will likely increase following reader feedback. The single read-through changes led to a 10k increase alone.

So now it’s with my first reader, whose role is to look at the big, over-arching issues. My main character wants A, but X is in her way. Are the obstacles enough, is she developing as the story goes, do the sub-plots all make vague sense, and does the ending satisfy the promises I’ve made?

And while I await that feedback, I’m planning the next story — once more attempting to world-build and clarify as many issues before I begin the solid business of writing the first draft.

How do you handle the ebbs and flow of writing? 

Have you ever stopped editing a piece you love because you didn’t have the skills needed at the time?

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