I expect every novel to bring its own set of demands and challenges. It’s a bit strange moving on to the next one. It feels entirely different, not just because a genre switch, but also because of what I learned the last time around.
Would I change the way I approached writing the last novel if I had a chance? No. That was me figuring out how to get it done and the inefficiencies in the process were part of the learning, but I will be doing a few things differently this time.
For the first novel, I knew the ending from the start but I just didn’t know how to get there. I pantsed my way through the parts I didn’t know. I don’t think I could have gotten through it otherwise. I wasn’t able to sort out the plot until after the first draft, because I didn’t yet have a feel for the length and how much story I’d need to create to get through to the end.
Now, I am aware of the average length for each scene, like the rise and fall of a breath, the natural shape of things in my mind. I didn’t imagine it would be so consistent. This time, I should be able to plan the novel to greater detail, which will make the writing part faster, and ensure fewer major plot issues before the first draft. I have a better gauge on structure, and layering conflict.
However, I still don’t plan to writing linearly. With the first novel, I found it more efficient to work on the parts that were easier, the parts that were better defined, and let the subconscious work away at the harder bits in the meantime. I’ll continue to do this.
I think that next time I can also cut out a round or two of the edits if I do a physical printout earlier on in the game. It was one of the most helpful stages of editing for me. Reading (fast) through the story helped me identify plot holes and inconsistencies I’d have missed by focusing on one chapter at a time. It helped with the bigger picture and the flow of the novel.
Oh and there’s the world building. How world building torments me. Most writers of fantasy enjoy it, but I am not one of them. Strict magic systems? No thanks. I’ll stick to the surreal. I have a bare bones map of the world is more about directions than landscape. It’s TERRIBLE. This city here, this other one, somewhere south. The first novel was a challenge in terms of setting, and I employed a strange iterative world building approach. With every draft, more details came to light about the world and setting. I’m not sure if I integrated everything smoothly. It just so happened that way. I didn’t even know I was writing steampunk at the time. I plan on blogging about how that happened later.
This time the world building doesn’t seem to be an issue. The new novel has more of a historical flavor, so there’s more research to be done. I also am basing it off of a short story I previously wrote, so the world is something I am somewhat familiar with. Every novel is different.
I seem to have worked out a truce with my muse. We have a pretty regular writing schedule now. He’s still usually late to work, but if I start writing he’ll show up eventually, and I can’t complain about the output. Things have been pretty good. Perhaps it was a good idea to write him a threatening letter?
Consistency and routine helps, and so does having a dedicated space to write. I couldn’t write in the living room where my desk was, so I set up a small corner in the bedroom. I can close the door and not hear the TV which is too distracting.
And again, the most surprising thing about this whole process hasn’t been a fight with the writing, but a battle against distraction, doubt, and impatience. Those are the real novel killers, and I think I can handle them better this time around, because I will be expecting them.
There are a lot of things I hope to improve for the next novel: being better at subtlety, learning how to work more gracefully with different POV’s, and a more efficient editing process.
What are some things you’ve learned so far? It’s good to celebrate even the small successes!