Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stages of Writing a Novel

I've pounded out a few novels now and here are the stages I go through:

Stage One: Flirtation

Word Count: 1 – 10,000

Writing speed: 2,000 words per day

I've just started the novel, I've got new characters to get to know. The idea is so fantastic everyone will love this book.

Stage Two: Love

Word Count 10,000 – 15,000

Writing speed: 800 words per day.

The idea is so fantastic that I have to put careful thought into each word to make sure the concepts come out properly. My characters are perfect with just enough flaws to keep people interested.

Stage Three: Waking up.

Word Count 15,000 – 25,000

Writing speed: 800 words every other day.

The idea is alternately so stupid or so complex that I can't believe I thought I could write a novel around it. My characters are jerks no one can like them.

Stage Four: Hate (the longest)

Word Count: 25,000 – 35,000

Writing speed: You're kidding right?

How the hell am I going to tie all this stuff together? Why is my heroine yelling at me? Do I really need that side character, can't I kill them now?

Stage Five: When will it end?

Word Count: 35,000 – 50,000

Writing speed: 800 to 1,000 words per day

Just hit the plot points, fix it later. If the characters aren't witty and dynamic 100% of the time you can fix it later.

Stage Six: Man, that was easy

Word Count: 50,000 – the end.

Writing speed: 1,500 to 2,000 words a day.

I love how all the plot points come together. I want to sleep with my characters, regardless of gender. The plot was perfect for my skill level. I can't believe writing a novel is so easy.

Stage Seven: Postpartum Depression

Word Count: Done

Writing Speed: 0

It's over, but I love my characters. What will I do without them in my life? I loved every second of writing that book. Okay, not every second. Okay, not even most of the time, but when I did love it it was worth it.

Those are the Seven Stages I go through in writing a novel. How about you? What do you feel when writing.


  1. I'm not sure I'm a good example because novels tend to simmer in my subconscious until they are done/triggered by whatever was needed to pull it all together. Usually, the idea, which I already knew about, is older, sometimes decades old.

    So, by the time I write, I'm not so much writing as channeling what my subconscious has already put together. And, fortunately, my subconscious is pretty skilled so what comes out is an amazingly polished (for a first draft) piece of work with dialog, already fleshed out characters, witty dialogue, etc. Since I'm a big fan of my subconscious' work, I LOVE it as it unfolds, with my conscious brain just barely ahead of what my fingers put on the screen. I laugh, tickled with myself, as I go, because, hey, I'm funny. And, damn I'm good.

    I laugh and cry and get thrilled or even turned on, nod along as my key character change their worlds, at least in some small way, to something better than before. In fact, I'll be completely in love with this, unless I pause to read it out loud to someone who hates (or what could be a tiny aspect of it) and suck all the joy out of it.

    However, I've even become good at overcoming that, still completely narciss-- infatuated with my own skills and imagination until the damn thing's finished. The last three novels I finished at an average of 2000 words a day, while working full time and having to do mom stuff, too.

    It's only after I've let it sit for a bit (preferably a couple of months) before I can get anything approaching perspective on it. Sometimes too much perspective, such that I hate it like it's as vile as the most recent celebrity expose (in which case, I need to leave it be a bit longer). Only then can the problems, the inconsistencies, the plot idiocies, the clumsy idealistic monologues, the pacing challenges get identified and, hopefully, fixed.

    But I don't usually hate it unless something else has made me very unhappy.

  2. I think when I said, "Hate" it was a little extreme, but I really don't have a proper word for it. Frustration would have been better.
    It's in the middle that all the problems, inconsistencies, and pacing problems work their way to the front of my brain.
    That's the time when I have to plow through and get it done. It's also the time when I'm most easily pulled away. (funny how that happens).
    Next week I'll post about editing. One of the funniest things about the second read through is I know the spots where I my ideas flew on to the paper as fast as I could type, and the spot where I said to myself, "This is crap."
    The stuff I really like reading is the stuff I told myself was crap while writing it.
    The only novel I wrote that I hated reading was my second one. Project Sparerib. It was a historical/Sci-Fi/Mystery/Romance/Psychological Thriller/Horror/Political Thriller put in first person limited with an omnipresent voice stopped by to say something every 10,000 words or so. It spanned 80 years of history and 40 years of the future. I'm thinking that was a little too ambitious for a second novel.
    The funny thing about it was I typed it out in 6 weeks and loved every second of writing it.

  3. Ironically, it's the opposite for me. The stuff that comes effortlessly where I'm barely keeping up with my fingers, that's the good stuff. Whereever I had to push my way through or craft a scene, it never sounds quite right.

    I'm apparently my subconscious' biggest fan.

  4. Maybe I work well under pressure, or something.
    One funny thing.
    In the first draft of MIND THIEF I had typed in red.
    (They stop for lunch, somehow have a chicken drumstick left over, call Randolph to confirm Hanson is a fake).
    Every time I hit that spot my mind went totally blank, and I left it for later. When my wife wanted to read it I had about half an hour to come up with a scene.
    After reading it she said that was her favorite scene in the book as it really showed how the two of them loved each each other and the stakes involved. That made me read it over a I loved the scene.
    I wasn't going for that when I wrote it, I just needed them to have a drumstick to use in the next scene.