As a birthday present to myself last week, I worked like a dog and finished Chrysalis – or at least got the draft to a point where I’m not embarrassed to share it with others. The plot is consistent, I think I remembered to foreshadow everything correctly, no stray mantels with stray guns on them. Emboldened, I submitted to Ragnarok.
I doubt I will hear back. They’re a great publisher, and the novel is good, but it was more of a milestone submission than an expectation of success that spurred me on. I don’t think my writing is edgy or gritty enough for Ragnarok. But I did it, and I have no regrets, because working towards this goal got me off my duff and working on a novel again. The weekend before I submitted, I managed to edit/write (it’s a process) over 25k words in 2 days. TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND WORDS folks. Sure, it’s easier to do when you’re rewriting than starting from scratch, but still.
Working on this project has also helped me realize what, exactly, works for me when it comes to writing novels (or at least the last two). Here are my fast and dirty rules for how I’ve written my last few novels. These rules don’t guarantee success, but they’ve at least helped me see a finish line.
- Get it out of my head as quickly as possible. It will be dirty, rough, and horribly written. Whatever. Turn off the spell checker, don’t watch the word counts unless I’m in a mood to know (and after a while, I am, because it helps keep me sane), but write it as fast I can.
- See 1.
- When finished, stuff it somewhere and do something else. Let it mature for at least three months. I will have stray ideas about it in this time. I write them down. They might be useful later. Probably not, but at least I recorded them.
- Once the novel is done incubating, pull it out and do a quick read through. Re-familiarize myself with the story, the flow, the ideas. Make serious notes this time, note scenes that need to be moved around, rewritten, added.
- This next part varies. Sometimes I will take a scene, stand it up to one side, and then retype it from scratch. I’ve found that doing this, I often make the same word choices, even when I ignore the original and try to write it fresh. Go figure. This usually lasts through the first 1/4 of the novel. Then I start taking whole scenes and just go line by line, fixing errors, embellishing, changing data spews to scenes where necessary. I try to cut most of my “had” and “still” during this process. I sometimes succeed. I make comments when I’m not sure if I remembered to mention something before I suggest we’ve known about it already.
- I will do a final read through again, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything obvious. This is when I fix those comments of missing references, verify that this isn’t the first time dear cousin Bill was mentioned as if he’d been there earlier, etc.
Occasionally, I will remember to turn the spell checker on at some point.
Until Chrysalis, that’s usually where the novel has floundered. It remains to be seen if this one will suffer the same fate. I hope not. I’m already working on the sequel.