Friday, February 9, 2018

My Process, FWIW

This week I completed a first draft of a YA road trip novel I started back in 2013. That’s typical.

In 2013 I had an idea for a character and a journey, and wrote a few pages so I wouldn’t forget it. A year later I wrote twelve more pages, then wrote this note in my journal: This is the point where I realize that I have a couple characters, an emotional/intellectual journey, a compelling opening, and an epiphanic ending. But I have no story.

I set the manuscript aside and worked on other things. Six months after that I wrote another twenty pages, got stuck again and didn’t look at it for another seven months, when one day I told a friend, Geoff Herbach, about the book.

Invisible sequel? Not now.
Talking about it with a fellow writer—we discussed his nascent novel too—got me excited. I went home and wrote five more pages, bringing it up to thirty-six pages. It was looking promising, but I was deep into revising a middle-grade novel called Otherwood (coming this September!), and writing a contracted sequel to my 2005 novel Invisible. so the road trip story went back into limbo.

The novel (I was calling it a novel now) reemerged last April, when I had the opportunity to take a solo road trip down the Mississippi River to the state of Mississippi. Hundreds of photos and pages of notes and a couple thousand miles later I was back at my desk. I wrote four pages and, once again, set it aside to work on other things.

Last summer the Invisible sequel died halfway through. I mean, that thing had been dead for months but I kept administering CPR. It finally got to the point where it was stinking up the house so bad I couldn’t stand it. That’s another story I may share on some dark future day.

I returned to the road trip novel in late August, and over the next 157 days I wrote another 244 pages. For those of you who like to count words, that’s an average of 346 words per day. For me, that’s a reasonable pace.

I reread the manuscript, made a bunch of deletions, additions and edits, and yesterday called it a first draft. Now, on to a couple beta readers and what I fear will be an arduous rewrite. That, too, is typical.

I’m still working on a title. Titles are hard, unless they come right away. This one didn’t.

Anyway, that’s how I do it. I’m now starting work on a novel I’ve been thinking about for twenty years, based on a recurring nightmare from early childhood. I think it’s a horror novel but maybe not. I have three characters, a setting, some existential dread, and a bit of dialog. No plot or story yet, but it will come.

I hope your process is cleaner and easier. But I’ll bet it’s not.