I was reading a guest post on Writers Digest by author Warren Adler, talking about the top ten struggles that a novelist faces – ten very normal struggles that every novelist will experience during their writing process. Being smack in the middle of my new first draft, this was obviously very compelling reading for me.
Go ahead and give it a read. It’s short.
Each of these struggles is valid for me, to some extent. Most importantly right now, I think, is Adler’s second point: that you might write 100 pages of your manuscript and decide that it’s all crap. I haven’t quite done that, but having just finished my first draft of Chapter 7, I’ve realized that the novel would be fundamentally better if I changed a couple of my major characters. It’s one of those things that you can just feel in the pit of your stomach as a writer. Worse, I can visualize the scenes I’ve already written, and with these changes they would be so much more interesting. And so the temptation to go back to page 1 and start my rewrite is very, very strong.
The challenge here is to not give in to that temptation (so I guess I’m disagreeing with Adler). If you’re going to finish a novel, in my opinion, there reaches a point when you can’t go back and restart. Working through the first draft is a way to work out all of the kinks in the manuscript; if you stop 1/3 of the way in, you’ve only figured out 1/3 of the kinks. For all you know, you might go back, rewrite, get 2/3 of the way in, and want to go back to square one all over again. So what I’m doing is keeping a list of changes that I know I’m going to make in draft 2, and then applying these changes where I can in draft 1 to minimize how much work I’ll be putting in later. That way can avoid the risk of perpetually going back, and never finishing the manuscript.
As with anything, this is my process right now – come see me again on my next book and I might be trying something totally different! I’ll try to describe the end result of my process here when the time comes.
In unrelated news, I wanted to send out a huge congratulations to my friend and fellow writer Michael e. Casteels! I’ve mentioned him a few times here as a poet and publisher, and he has just been awarded a competitive grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Congrats, Michael! Hoping that this leads to even more exceptional writing!
You can check out Michael’s small press, Puddles of Sky, by going here.