Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the hardest parts of writing novels (final revisions and patience)

Miss Snark has some smart words to say on her blog today about how hard it is to finish up a novel. Here's part of what she wrote:

They know, like I do, that the final 20% of the novel is harder to write than the preceding 80%. They know too that a first draft (which is what you're talking about when you first write THE END) is hardly ever something you should show anyone except your dog. That means you're a year from being really done, if you ever finish at all.

I think she's right on the money with this. Sure, it takes a long time (for me, anyway) to write a 300-page first draft. But it's the easiest part, really, because it's the time for discovery, the time to make mistakes.

But each subsequent revision gets a little trickier as the piece gets tighter and tighter. I'm onto draft 3 or so of my new novel, and it's fun as hell to work on it, but it's a challenge to find just the right patches for stuff that isn't working.

I'm cutting and revising one particular chapter, and got hung up today on one short scene. Maybe 2-4 pages, but I just had a tough time coming up with the right rewrite. That's part of what was making it harder (that I needed it to be just right), so tomorrow, I'll just write three versions of the scene, with complete license for any or all of them to be total crap. I'll bet good money that one of them will end up working.

The challenge of the revisions is part of what makes writers so anxious to prematurely start peddling their books. I know I feel it. The sense of, "man, I'd like to be done with this and start working on query letters." But it's a long way away. (My fiction group meets tomorrow night, where we'll talk about the second half of the novel. I imagine I'll come away with a very long list of things that will keep me busy for a while.)

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