So, I’m writing a novel. I’ve hit 78000 words, which is about 60% of my first draft. It’s been exhausting, it’s been exhilarating, and I’ve discovered my mind doesn’t work the way I expected.

At first outlining seemed like a very sensible thing. It was the way I’d always gone about writing academic papers. It would make the writing go faster, right?

I dug through my files and found an old novel outline. It was fleshed out chapter by chapter, scene by scene. I also had a folder full of character notes, settings, names, and family charts to go with it. It was a perfectly decent story, but I never got farther than the first 6 chapters. The actual writing process became so boring I couldn’t stand to finish the story.

So 78k words later, what worked this time? I discovered I’m a hybrid plotter-panster. I need an outline that lists key scenes and the climax of the novel. I need a direction to write in, but I also I need enough room to let my imagination run freely.

I also realized I don’t need to write linearly. When I’ve hit a wall, I’ve tried moving on to other scenes that I knew had to be written. From those points I could progress logically backwards. If you’ve never tried working backwards from the end of your novel, you should try it. It’s a mental workout.

Writing fast also works for me. I’ve been writing at a pace of roughly 1000 words a day. The result is a first-draft-in-progress that is a complete mess. It’s full of inconsistencies, gaps, and “insert name” placeholders. It’s taken all of my willpower to stop from going back to rewrite.

But, this fear of bad writing is the main reason that my previous novel writing attempts were unsuccessful. I have a folder stuffed full of novel beginnings that lack an ending. How many times have you re-written that first chapter of yours? hmm?

I’ve never gotten anywhere near this far along in a novel in the past, and I know that I can finish this one.

I feel that this first draft is the basic shape I need before I can add in the details. I’m looking forward to the edits and the polishing. I’ve always used this method when working with paint or clay, why wouldn’t it also apply to the way I write? Why didn’t I realize this a long time ago?

I’m still learning how the creative parts of my brain work.

Have you discovered something that surprised you while you were writing?



Never write before bed.

I’d finished the first draft of a short story and decided to call it a night. The piece still needed a lot of work but I was tired and it was already getting late.

I opened my eyes at precicely 2 am. My brain was shuffling paragraphs, smoothing out sentences, and formulating alternate endings. I was editing in my sleep! If I wasn’t so tired I’d have gotten out of bed and worked on the damned story.  I opted to toss and turn in bed. I tried meditating, but I’ve never been very good at it. The story kept me staring at the ceiling for another hour. You can bet I spent the next day in a caffinated haze.

I learned my lesson.

I think I’ll stick to reading before bed. Dreaming about typing into a Microsoft word document is no fun. It’s more of a nightmare really.

PS Please excuse if the blog looks a little strange the next few days. I’m still playing around with the formatting.