What’s so hard about writing a novel?

“What’s so hard about writing a novel?”


Its been a while since I did a writing update, so I figured one was long overdue. Don’t take my attitude to mean that the writing is going badly. I’m still progressing, one word a time, forming sentences, crafting paragraphs, eventually making pages. I’m trying to avoid keeping an eye out on word counts. I have a minimum target I’d like to meet, but I’m trying not to turn this into another “I must make XXXX today/week/month.” I don’t want this to fall into being about quantity instead of quality.

What I’m finding difficult, though, is the in between bits. The scenes and chapters between the action, where the characters are supposed to develop and progress, becoming tangible to the reader and leading up to the whiz bang adrenaline scenes that, properly peppered through the novel, give it a sense of flow and progress. Except that in order to do that, I think, you really need an idea of what all the pieces are to your story, whether codified as an outline or just a mental image of every nuance.

But that’s not the way I write, not usually. Sure, I’ll jot down a few notes ahead of time for a scene, but generally speaking I kind of just sit down with a picture of what needs to happen in my head, and then I start typing. This works great for short stories, but then, short stories are usually just the interesting bits – there isn’t room for depth (unless that’s the point of the piece). For short stories, I can sit down with an idea, and one mad, furious typing session later have the first draft of a story. Of a complete story. But with a novel, when you finish that session – there’s still more to write.

Which isn’t to say I want to throw in the towel on the novel – far from it. But I do find my mind wandering when it feels like I’m slogging through something. And if its slogging for me, how would a reader interpret it? So what I’m trying to do right now is to come up with a hybrid approach, a middle grand between my native organic process and the more rigid process of outlining. Whatever else, I know how this story starts, I know what the turning points should be, and I know where it will end. And I’ve written some of them. And I plan on continuing to write them as they come to me, these scenes that cover pivotal moments in the story. Because as I write them, my muse whispers hints to me, hints of what leads up to them. Which gives me things that I need to go back and write to take place before these scenes. Which in turn gives me more hints on what to write in the in between parts.

Maybe its a hair brained approach, I don’t know. I’m experimenting. At the very least, I should end up with a story that is more consistent with itself. To borrow from the Chekhov example – by writing the final scene first where the rifle is used, I know that when I write the first scene, I might should mention it sitting on the fireplace.

So that’s the state of things.