So it’s been a really exciting week. I’ve been keeping my elaborate spreadsheet, plugging away at my novel, and today I did a percentage-complete. The updated status: 62%.
Let me back up. So, this revision has felt like it is taking forever. In theory, I started revising it heavily last July, but even as far as September I was lost in the woods trying to figure out what exactly I needed to do. Also, practically, I wasn’t quite sure how to track my progress (I will geek out and rave about the importance of the proper metrics another time, but seriously, metrics are important!). If you do word-count, that’s almost impossible to track. Do I count chapters complete? I was constantly adding or removing chapters and that became unstable.
I remember vividly having revised the first 10ish chapters, then realized “these literally do not belong in this novel. Polished prose, but it doesn’t matter. Time to give it the chop.” I went from having 12 chapters done to 2. Percent complete: 19% to 3%.
On top of that demoralization, there was structural problems with my first draft. I’m terrible at middles, so in this first-draft I had huge gaps in continuity. The middle just… didn’t exist. I threw random sequences that sort of attached (sometimes), I had no outline. I ended up with an awkward treadmill effect where I’d be “editing”, and I’d have to come to a full-stop and revisit first draft questions like “what on earth does this scene accomplish?” That forced me to keep mentally shifting gears, and it made it slow.
This book was supposed to be a light read. A (relatively) quick project for me to brush up on my skills before I dive into some of the more complicated books I want to work on. It felt so frustrating to be stuck at 20% (or even going backwards). It made it feel like this dream of being a published novelist, of churning out multiple novels and working on so many different things just impossible. I have literally so many ideas, they’re bursting inside my head, and I just want to get them out there. There’s so many I want to share, and while I enjoy Deveroux and Fitch it’s meant to be light-hearted, it’s meant to be a warm-up for me, a chance to get away. And any novel – no matter what you’re working on – starts to get old when it has been around for more than 6 months. It’s a good friend, but it’s overstayed the welcome.
To be clear, while it felt like I was on a treadmill, I acknowledge I was actually making progress. I’ve learned a lot about the structure of my novels. I can’t wait to do another first draft and apply my skills. And some of the pieces I cut are actually reasonably polished and will probably be used in the sequel. I was writing, I was learning about my process, and I’m getting much better about my structure.
All of that baggage is why I say “I am 62% complete” and it feels so incredibly satisfying. I am suddenly on the downward slope. The final third of the book is really lead-up to the climax, and like reading, revision of the final third goes faster. I have a structure. It’s not 100%, but it’s enough of a skeleton I don’t have to keep shifting back to first-draft questions. The book is nowhere near done – I’ll need one more pass to catch the stupid-obvious errors. It’s still an important mile-stone though, and then another draft after beta readers. But there’s the light at the end of the tunnel.
And then I’ll be able to start the next project, because I’ve got me a hankering to write some epic fantasy.