So if I’ve gone about it properly, this post will appear in the future. But I’m writing it from the past. Weird, huh. Wibbly woblly. Timey-wimey. You know.
Anyways, I thought I’d spew some randomness on the process of novel writing as seen by me. So here goes:
The Process of Novel Writing as Seen by Me
(a not-very-scholarly collection of thoughts)
Stage One: The Random Idea
I love random ideas. I have a Molskine notebook specifically meant for them, and I carry it around with me everywhere—one never knows when inspiration might strike. The weirdest things spark ideas: a mis-heard song lyric, a pattern on a plate that happens to look like a whale, a brief conversation with friends about the relative merits of cupbearers… Some ideas suck. And some turn into novels. That’s why they’re so much fun. I do think if a random stranger were to read through my Molskine they would definitely assume I was mentally unhinged. But you’ll have that.
(There’s sort of a half-stage that comes after Random Ideas and before Brainstorming, but I’m not sure the phenomena known as rattling-around-in-the-subconscious can be very clearly defined, so we’ll just move on.)
Stage Two: Brainstorming
I’m currently brainstorming for this year’s NaNoWriMo novel (I know I’m starting early. Shut up, you’re just jealous) and I love it. I start a notebook for every novel I write, which is great because it 1) Gives me an excuse to buy notebooks, and 2) Gives me a place to jot down ideas without cluttering up the aforementioned Moleskine.
This is where I figure out basic storyline, characters, and world-building, and usually get ideas for a few scenes as well. This stage is fun because of all the POSSIBILITIES!! They’re endless. The world is your oyster. And dang it if it isn’t going to be the most amazing novel ever written!! 🙂
Stage Three: Outlining
I never used to outline beyond your basic Beginning-Middle-Ending type of thing, which inevitably left me with a heck of a lot of head-scratching and getting into plot difficulties I didn’t know how to get out of.
Then I discovered the one, the only, the amazing SNOWFLAKE METHOD and was immediately converted. (I know I’ve mentioned it on here before, but it’s been a while and bears repeating). I really like this method of outlining, as it allows you to grow your story and your characters without it seeming forced or false. It’s also super fun, at least most of the time. Oh, and I never go past Step Eight.
Stage Four: First Draft
Way back in the summer of 2005, I discovered the awesome that is NaNoWriMo, and despairing of the fact that Novemeber was months away, I did my own finish-it-or-bust challenge with my current work in progress, a novel then titled Connor’s Journey. Apart from a book I’d completed pre-college that’s not quite long enough to technically be called a novel and is way too embarrassingly cliché to actually talk about in public anways, Connor’s Journey was my first novel. I’d been floundering in the first quarter of it for quite a long time, and decided I wanted to finish it. So I did. It felt amazing. And in the process I learned something: first drafts are fun, especially if written at high speed with a deadline hanging over your head.
It goes without saying that I adored NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it four times now, and am gearing up for a fifth. I love love love love love the amazing process of writing, especially on those days where you can’t seem to type fast enough to keep up with your brain. Yeah, you hit slow days, but it only makes the non-slow days that much more awesome. And I love the freedom of a first draft. Doesn’t have to be perfect. There just has to be words on the page.
Oh first drafts, how I love thee.
Stage Five: Revision
Oh revision, how I loathe thee.
Okay, maybe not loathe, but it’s certainly a love/hate kind of relationship. Revision is just so painful, and it takes such a looooong time. Nowhere near as much fun (or as quick!) as those glorious first drafts. It’s always rough when you’re forced to admit to yourself that the perfect novel you churned out in November ain’t so perfect. Blech.
At any rate, for me revision generally includes a heck of a lot of deletion/rearrangement/addition/restructuring/reworking of characters/list making. Figuring out what’s wrong with the novel and exactly how I want to fix it is sometimes half the battle. Once I figure it out, I start over from page one and re-key the whole thing. Cringe-worthy, I know, but it forces you to consider every single word in a way that you don’t really do if you’re just changing a sentence or two here and there. It also helps you to get back into the groove of the story and lets your new scenes match the style and feel of the old ones.
In the event that I ever make it to line-editing (debating for five minutes whether this word or that one would be better, and you know I think this sentence needs a semi-colon), I’m always deleriously happy!!
I’ve only thus far wrangled two of my novels through the horrible revision process, and am back revising one of them (the 2005 nano) again—though it won’t be near as extensive as the first time.
Stage Six: World-Wide Fame
Just kidding. 🙂
So that’s the noveling process as seen by me. If you actually read through all of that, you are amazing.
Cheers from the future (or is it the past? I don’t know. I’m confused).
See you on the other side of Kansas!