some things I learned this week
March 8, 2013
I’ve been working on this one novel manuscript for about three years now — the earliest files are dated 2010. You might have heard me talking about it as the YA space opera. If you’ve heard me talk about it in any detail at conventions or whatnot — I even read a section of it at MileHi Con a couple of years ago — I probably called it Polly. It doesn’t yet have a publisher, so I’ve been sneaking time to work on it in and around all my other projects that are under contract. It’s taken awhile. Since December, it’s been about 10,000 words from being finished. This week, I finally sat down and just banged out the whole climactic scene and finale — 7000 words in 4 days. Whew.
I now finally have a working draft of Polly. I also have a list of revisions to take care of, but I finally have a complete story, with all chapters in place, to work on. Getting to this point has been a slog — I really didn’t think it would take three years. For me, that’s a really long time to be working on one thing. But I’ve learned some things about my process.
(This is a good place to point out that I’ve been selling fiction since 1999, I sold my first novel in 2004, and I’ve been writing full-time since 2007 — and I’m still learning things about my process and the whole gig. You never figure it all out. Which is actually kind of fun. Never a dull moment.)
I learned two important things about my process from working on Polly:
— People are impressed that I seem to write so quickly and produce so much. This isn’t because I’m necessarily a fast writer. It’s because if I take too long to finish something, I will eventually get so disgusted with it and lose all faith in the original idea that I jettison the whole thing. I write quickly so I can finish things and send them out into the world before I reach that stage. Some writers take five years to finish a novel and that’s fine. If I don’t get it done in a year, it will end up taking forever. It’s not an issue of speed, it’s attention span. It’s taken me three years to finish Polly — but it spent two years sitting on my desk gathering dust before I finally went back to it. The only thing that kept me from jettisoning Polly entirely is that I had already written 60,000 words — that’s a huge investment that I didn’t want to just flush. Now that I have a manuscript to revise, I feel a whole lot better about it. I just had to get over that hump.
— I can still write novels on-spec (i.e. without a contract in hand). It may take me three years, but I can do it. This gives me hope for some of my pie-in-the-sky ideas I have on the back burner right now.
These are good lessons to apply to future projects. Like I said, I don’t have a publisher for Polly yet, and I’m a little leery of talking about it even this much without being able to say what’s going to happen to it. It needs more work before I even start letting people read it. But that’ll be the next step — get it out there and see what happens.
Onward and upward.