After a lingering illness of insentience and lassitude, we regret to inform you of the death of Novel Draft Two. It slipped into the Black with relief and without fanfare. May it never see the light of day again.
The “deadline” for the draft of my first novel is approaching at what seems to be warp speed (I can’t actually confirm that with like… math and stuff, ‘cause, well… it’s math), but I guarantee it’s true.
Last December I chucked my first draft in at 52,000 words (no, that’s not a typo) and started again, pumped and ready to go. Five days ago draft number two bit the dust at 26,000 (yep, that’s 78,000 words in total – novel length), and started again. I’m nothing if not consistent.
The problem with the story wasn’t the fact that I was leaning more to the side of ‘pantsing’ than ‘plotting’, but that the story had no soul. It wasn’t my characters or the world they lived in, it was the way I was imparting my characters’ story. I was bored, and if I’m bored with the storytelling, then so will any potential reader.
I won’t lie; it’s been a struggle. I’ve been plagued with self-doubt, petty jealousies, and outright apathy – dark moments that made me want to give it all away. Not just the novel, but writing as a whole. It’s a terrible place to be, and while it usually only lasts a few days, it feels like an eternity when you’re living it, and it feels like there’s no way out.
Storytelling isn’t easy; it’s more than just sitting down and spewing out words. Not everyone can do it. On my good days, I like to think I can do it well. Well enough to keep at it. Perseverance, stubbornness, quintessence, call it what you will. Writing is an intrinsic part of me – the good, the bad and the ugly.
So where does that leave me? Two thousand words into the third draft and with two main characters who have a story they want to tell before they’re lost to history. A story of gods and monsters, survival and betrayal, hope and hopelessness in a savage, unforgiving world. I like them, warts and all, but they don’t care that I do; they are who they are and they make no apologies for it.
Here’s a little taste by way of introduction:
If Wren knew one thing, it was the world was dying and she wasn’t one for being long in it. She’d defied enemy and gods alike, and sooner or later, one would stake their claim and into the Black she’d go.
Crouched in the shadow of the Kanaku Ranges, she slit the wood rat from tiny cock to tiny throat, scooping out its innards and plopping them into the pan. They sizzled, stinging her nostrils and watering her mouth. The rat’s blood sautéed the offal quickly and her gut grumbled with impatience. She chose the heart. It tasted like metal. Metal and dirt. Still, food was food. She’d seen others eat much worse.
And debut number two:
The aroma of roasting deer teased Cy’s tongue as he busied himself with the defences along the north ridge, but it was the tournament that weighed heavily on his mind. The first rounds would have begun. Candidates would be sweating in their armour, the women demure behind intricately-bejewelled veils. Seven women; the last of breeding age left in the Ranges.
Cy punched the log into place, taking pleasure in the radiating pain. No girls born in over a decade—and she’d been a sickly child, strange of face and mind—and three more women lost in childbirth this past year. They had a legion of soldiers in the making, but no wives to mourn them. His name should have been called; the deal had been struck. But here he was fucking about with wood when he should have been earning his legacy. He would leave tomorrow, past the sanctuary of the mountains in search of a womb.
I feel a lot more confident with this incarnation, I can see their stories much more clearly, and both Wren and Cy seem comfortable in their new skins (I think Wren may have smiled, but she swears it was a grimace).
So enough dilly-dallying for now, it’s time to get these two moving – they have paths they’re itching to take and they don’t suffer malingerers.
Right then, where’s my coffee…
10 thoughts on “Death of a Novel”
I can really relate to this. Actually, I have a friend who’s editing her first novel, and she too has gone back and rewritten the opening scenes. Great minds, eh?
Or crazy minds! I think as writers, we’re never entirely happy with our work, we always believe it can be better. Rewriting is an essential part of the process, I’d just like to do that after the completion of a draft. 🙂 As an editor, it doesn’t make the writing any easier — I want to fix it and FIX IT NOW!
That sounds awesome! I can’t wait to read it when you get to the end. My books all start like that, many more drafts of the beginning, like you’re feeling your way in the dark, then the end seems to just run home on its own.
This is what I’m hoping. Feeling your way in the dark is exactly how it …umm… feels. 🙂
It must be hard to leave your editor’s hat at the door when working on your own writing. Being a perfectionist I find it hard enough to move forward myself, I can’t imagine how you must feel! Hang in there, your sample sounds good and your enthusiasm for the project is evident.
It’s the perfectionism that makes it hard to move past something I know needs fixing. It’s not enough to leave a note and come back to it (although I know I should). I’m my own worst enemy.
Love those openings! 🙂
And I know what you mean about ‘leaving a note’ – I’ve trained myself to do it, but it took years – must be tough indeed as an editor
Thanks, Ashley. I’m sure there’ll be changes to those openings at a later stage, but for now, I’m happy with them. And you’ll be pleased to know I’ve left two notes in the draft (I gasped too) but it was quite difficult to move past them. I think you’re right about having to train yourself to do that!
They both drew me in quickly, the starkness of the world is so clear
Great to hear! Stark is a good word. Brutal is another. 🙂