Novel Thoughts: The Terrifying Prospect of Self-Editing

Right after I finished NaNoWriMo last year I had a burst of creative energy that resulted in a slightly more personal work, a novel based on some geographical truths but features a fictional plot.

In the last two months I’ve dedicated myself to writing at least 1,000 words a day, and that’s really given me a source of pride and joy that I wasn’t expecting. I just wanted to see if I could do it, how I would feel about it, and what I’d end up with.

So my second 50,000-word manuscript is complete and this one I actually have some pride in. It’s a mess, to be sure. Lots of holes to be filled in, entire subplots added, scenes taken away. And I’m not even sure if this is my completed first draft, but it feels like a good place to take a break and get a little distance from it (though not a whole year as I did with my last effort).

I’ve been trying to decide what to do next and I’m thinking I should take on a different challenge for a little while. I am considering editing the manuscript I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year. It’s a weak effort, and I understand that it might not be worth finishing and polishing but working on it might actually teach me how to edit my work, how to revise and rewrite and rework with a set timeline in mind. It’s also slightly terrifying to contemplate. For some reason, I keep thinking of the process as a kind of self-editing and it wasn’t until I started to write this post that my thoughts solidified and I realized that my job is not to edit my work in the way I would someone else’s but to continue to flesh it out, strengthen my voice, tighten up everything and continue to enrich this little world I’m trying to create. And that process sounds so much more interesting than what I’d built it up to be in my head.

The most exciting part of this process thus far is just how often I surprise myself.

Novel Thoughts: Making Writing a Habit

*reposting from a couple of days ago because the post appears to be corrupted*

So I did NaNoWriMo last year and I won, which was personally illuminating in many ways. And the novel itself was fairly mediocre to downright bad. Pretty quickly after I finished my 50,000 words I started to work on a different story. One that came out of nowhere (though it was inspired by a real moment in my life). And then I dropped it for ages.

Oh, you know: It was the holidays. I started a new job in February. It was suddenly summer and I wanted to go for long walks instead of sitting at my computer. Excuses piled up. But a few weeks ago I decided that I’d follow the advice I’d been avoiding for years: Write every day. Too vague! So I opted to write 1,000 words per day. And I have done so pretty faithfully for a few weeks. I’ve also deleted whole chapters and subplots and changed my mind and re-worked and so far I have 33,000 words that I can’t be sure will stay or go but I add to them every day (even if I cut them later).

Making writing a habit is working for me in ways I never expected. I have given myself other permissions that are also working for me, including: Writing scenes as they come to me regardless of the order they might appear in the novel. Writing scenes when I have no idea where they will end up going or even if they don’t move the overall plot forward. Writing in notes to be filled in later like “discuss her hatred of waitressing” or “add a second public humiliation”. It seems I’m always up for a second public humiliation.

But what it comes down is that I’m writing regularly. And it’s very often the highlight of my day. I don’t feel pressured to finish anything or to write to an audience. This is entirely for me and it’s the first time I’ve experienced real joy while writing (aside from the joy I used to feel when I saw my name in print in the trade magazines I’ve written for).

The process is different from the style of writing I’ve done in the past. Writing for trade publications is like digging in and solving a small puzzle. It’s a fun process but not as creative as I have craved for most of my career. I love this little story I’m writing, and I’ve fallen in love with these characters as they’ve slowly revealed themselves to me. I look forward to finding out what they’ll do next.


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