Well, the nightly writing routine worked out — Tabitha is pretty much written. It’s my first full-length novel, so the whole process has been a
bit lot of a learning curve. This blog post is really just to note down things I’ve noticed during the novel-writing process, before I move on to editing. Maybe if you’re a novelist, or you’re starting out too, you’ve found out similar things?…
Some chapters are much easier to write than others. Not because I didn’t enjoy the prospect of writing them, but because I wanted to do them justice. But really, the only way to make masterpieces of your ‘climax’ chapters is to start them and then build on them — even if you’re only throwing words at the page that you consider distinctly average, and your first attempt is unreadable. What’s most important is that you get to the end of the story, and have a rough draft to work with. Even the roughest finished draft is way, way better than one perfectly polished chapter finished, and every other chapter waiting to be started.
A novel gets both easier and harder to write as it goes on. Easier because you get to know your characters, and you know how they’re going to react to the circumstances you put them in. Harder because many of your early ideas get overruled, overwritten, and chopped out in favour of something better — and this creates room for doubt. As I’ve invested more and more time into writing Tabitha, I’ve become more and more conscious that I want every idea in the story, strange though it may be, to make sense to the reader. In essence, I’ve found myself becoming more and more concerned with doing the story and the characters justice. But… don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. If you’re starting out as a novelist too, bear in mind that many famous authors wrote many, many novels before they found real success. That’s not to discourage anyone — just a reminder that a first try is, inevitably, going to be a first try. Even Hendrix had to suck at guitar when he started out.
Have a deadline in mind, but don’t sacrifice your best work in favour of work done on time. In a job, it’s important to have work done to a deadline. But writing a novel, for me at least, isn’t a job — it’s the thing I do when I’m not in work, and it’s the thing I’d do even if it never makes me a penny. It’s important and very useful to have a deadline in mind, but don’t be afraid to put it back a little if it’s going to give you more time to finish a final draft you’re happy with. You’ve spent this long writing it; don’t rush the final straight just to get it published on the day you said you would. That said, however, nor can you allow a deadline to become an endlessly flexible guideline. Only put off publishing if it’s going to give you something better to publish later.
So, those are my findings so far. What have you guys found out while you’ve been writing? Maybe you’re starting out on your own novel too, or you’d like to — or maybe you’ve already got fifty books under your belt. Wherever you’re at as a novelist, please let me know your own experiences in the comments!