Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Novel Writing: The Opposite of Instant Gratification

So, I wrote a post on how I hit "The Wall" a few weeks ago. I was in a serious funk and hardly worked on revisions at all. I think the enormity of what needed to be done scared me. And honestly, it still scares me. After I finished the draft I marked it up summarized the new scenes I wanted to write, but when I started writing, something happened. I started writing from a second character's POV, and I loved it. This changes a lot of things. Now I can't follow my marked up draft and new summaries perfectly, because I have another POV to think about. I still don't know exactly how I'm going to do this. I still haven't figured it all out. I think what scares me is that after I finish revising, I'll have to revise again and again and again. I have this vision of my story, and it's so awesome and perfect and I can see how amazing it COULD be. The hard part is figuring out how to get it to that stage...and it might take a while. And a lot of drafts.

This is why it's hard: because the hours put in and the work done and the sleep lost do not show instant results. For some writers, the results may come faster and easier than others. For me, it feels like it's taking an eternity.

Writing is NOT instant gratification.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but this is where I'm at. It's a long road ahead. There are no shortcuts. I guess I'm just starting to realize this. Sometimes I read about authors who can write a novel in such and such time and revise in such and such time, and I feel like I'm just SO. FAR. BEHIND. Like they're all on this happy writer's train and I'm standing in a field watching it go by, never to find it again.

But, as not to make this a whiny post, I will say this: I DO know that the time invested will be well worth it. The only way to make my story shine like it does in my "vision" is to put the work in, even if that means revising ten more drafts after this one. I believe in this story, and one day it will get there.

So, how is everyone else doing? :)


  1. It's good to keep this in mind. We see fellow bloggers landing agents and book deals, and we cheer them on, but want what they have - but to get what they have, you have to take the time to make it just exactly right. That's how they did it, that's how we'll have to do it.

    How'm I doing? Just about to start rewrites on last year's NaNo. It's had plenty of time to ferment. Big job!

  2. oh, I know exactly what you are talking about.. sigh.. I start to get discouraged sometimes, but, I keep telling myself that I won't get anywhere if I don't put in the time and effort.

    I often feel like I'm way slower, way slower at this writing thing than most. But then I think back to a year ago, less than that, when I started my novel and how I'm a little faster now, and a little better than I was... so I keep on clickity clacking the keys.

    You are doing great and you'll get that novel to where you want it to be. greatness doesn't happen overnight :)

  3. Hi Amanda,

    I'm a bit late chiming in, but just wanted to confirm what Cristina said: you are not alone in this. My friends have long stopped asking me 'how the book is coming', because I keep telling them 'almost done' - and have been doing this for the past decade, or so. One even had the audacity to let me know "well, obviously, you're not a real writer, because a real writer just sits down and writes the book!"
    At the time, I was too stunned to answer, but now - older and wiser - I know she reacted this way because she's never tried anything like writing a book herself. She had no idea what she was talking about.

    Like you, I have several versions of my book - most half-way done, as half-way through is usually when I see that the story is not crystallizing properly. I used to think my constant re-thinking of the structure was because there are probably many ways to approach my story, and I simply had a hard time choosing. But recently, as I'm finally working in the right composition, I have come to realize that my story (the one in my head) really only has ONE way to tell it right. It just took me a while (18 years...) to find it.

    A short anecdote to leave you with: for years I had this recurring dream of being rejected by a lover. It got to the point, that I started worrying about my marriage. Was I unhappy with the mate of my choice? Then, suddenly, as the dream started shifting (the desired lover gradually turning my way, smiling, starting to court me, etc --this over the course of a few months), it daunt onto me, that this lover was my book :-)
    I am now having recurrent dreams about this lover totally being into me :-) It tells me that my gut feeling is spot on: I've found the right structure. I also sense it when writing - everything suddenly falls into place, even themes and characters that I have always known to be crucial to the story but whom I previously failed to position anywhere. It is all coming together now.
    No instant gratification, for sure. But I'm really glad I muddled through for so long. Some stories can be written in a few weeks, others take a while longer. Don't fret it. Try to enjoy the process.

    Some people believe there is such a thing as 'over-thinking' when writing. I heartily disagree. Thinking and re-thinking is just part of the game.