Monday, December 28, 2009

Driving Without Headlights - Revisited

I recently mentioned that I was starting my next novel - The Weight of Souls - without using any kind of outline and without stopping to review or edit as I went. This approach is completely new for me, and I was deeply cynical as to whether it would work. Nonetheless, I thought I'd give it a go.

In the end, I reached about 31,000 words before giving up. In my mind, the story had descended into a twisting morass of plot-ends, shallow characters and repetitive action. I was all set to write a blog post confirming that, for me, the non-outline approach doesn't work, and I now needed to start over from scratch. Presuming, that is, I ever had the heart to return to The Weight of Souls.

Then, a funny thing happened. A bit over a week ago, I sat down late one evening and decided to read through the 31K words I had written. I was fully expecting to cringe at every turn, and perhaps find myself unable to reach the end before giving up in disgust. Instead, to my utter amazement, I thought what I had written was quite good - very much worthy of first draft status. Yes, the characters are shallow and need a lot of fleshing out, as does the description, environment, and the overall back-story. But the plot works well, and most importantly, the voice and feel that I had hoped would come across appears to do so.

The next day, I got stuck back into it. As I write this, I'm sitting at 41,000 words, and aiming to finish the draft by New Years. That means I'm writing something close to 2,500 words a day, but I now feel encouraged that this approach can indeed work, and I'm not totally wasting my time.

I can now see the advantages of using this method, and I think I'll stick with it for the time being - provided the final result for this novel is what I would have hoped.

I'm enjoying it enormously. Even better, it's helping take my mind off my continuing wait for news of Ping-Ling. The manuscript has now been sitting in a publisher's office (at least, I hope that's where it is and it didn't get lost in the mail) for approaching 12 weeks, and I no longer have any fingernails left. Any distraction is very welcome.

6 comments:

  1. Oh congrats to you! Sometimes getting away from something is for the best, and I've done the same, thought I'd only written rubbish, but a few choice nuggets remain!

    As for Ping-Ling, sigh... The waiting is truly one of the hardest parts! Wishing for you news and writing joy in 2010!

    (And sleep, with that new family member arriving!)

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  2. heh. i'm always amazed by how not-atrocious my first drafts are. (which says more about how irredeemably appalling i think they are than it does about them being any good ;)

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  3. Thankyou Anna,

    We already have twin 3 year old boys, so going without sleep is a well-honed skill! I hope you have a great new years as well, thanks for all your comments here on the blog!

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  4. Hi Deb,

    Well, I have to admit that when you wrote on your blog about how bad your first drafts are, I thought how interesting it would be to see them :-)

    You're right, I think we do tend to have a lower opinion of our own work than what's justified. Probably better than being at the other extreme.

    Have a great new years! I'm really looking forward to reading Pledged (aka book 2) :-)

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  5. Heh. One day I should post up a passage of Shadow Queen, and how it changed through various drafts. In fact, that's a good idea - I might learn something from it ;)

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  6. I'm so glad you're sticking with it, Peter!

    I have similar experiences with my stories. I tend to get bored with them long before I finish, and I start thinking they aren't any good or worth finishing. Often when I go back, I'm surprised to find little nuggets that make me smile or laugh and that inspire me to get back into it. Sometimes, I do best when I just give myself the goal of writing 1,000 words a day, whether I'm liking what I'm working on or not, hehe.

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