Over March Break I jumped fully into the second draft of my current novel (a space opera), having re-outlined like crazy beforehand, and managed to make it through five chapters of revisions before the week was up. Then things got crazy busy, between teaching obligations and promoting new publications and my role with TEGG Games, and I found myself struggling to keep my momentum. Part of the challenge was that I had hit a point in the draft where I was finally going to be making sizable changes to the narrative, requiring me to basically rewrite entire chapters from scratch.
Naturally, I hit a wall, for the first time in a long time. I sat at my computer a few times wondering if this novel was even worth my time. I had changed some of the characters to be more dynamic, but I was convinced no one would care about them. The premise involves the genetic modification of an entire species, but I’m not a geneticist, and I don’t want it to become a hard SF novel – but would it need to be? And most importantly, would the changes to the outline I’d proposed to myself actually make it a better novel? To make matters worse, I recently got three more short stories approved for TEGG, and I really want to work on those (even though the deadlines aren’t for a while) and I have two other novel ideas tugging at me, both of which I became convinced were more compelling ideas that would be more attractive to an agent or publisher.
Sunday morning, at a group writing session, I explained this to a couple friends, and one of them said to me: The honeymoon period is over. In other words, I had made it through the afterglow of first jumping into a project, and was finally seeing the sheer amount of work and things to fix before this draft would be done (and those other projects calling to me are like women with nice asses walking past me on the street – my friend’s metaphor, not mine). When all I wanted to do was put the space opera aside and (temporarily, I assured myself) work on something else, they told me to stick with it and get it done. The key piece of advice was to find the one thing I want to focus on in this novel – whether it’s the relationship between characters, or the premise, or the pacing, etc. – and concentrate on doing that as effectively as possible, then worry about solidifying the rest in later drafts.
Long story short, and after further reflection, the most important thing to me in novels is the relationships between the characters, with a fast-paced style being a close second. Keeping that in mind, I forced myself to sit down at the coffee shop until Chapter Six was finished. To my surprise, on my walk home I got it in my head exactly how the start of Chapter Seven would look, so I pounded out some more words while my dinner was in the oven. Though the honeymoon period is over, I think this novel and I have figured things out.
Now I just have to keep up that momentum until this draft is done, and ignore the various other ideas dancing in my head and demanding my attention. So with the little bit of time I have before I teach my evening class (now that I’ve finished this post) excuse my while I draft some more.