Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two-year anniversary

If you look closely at the photo at the top of the site, you'll see the notebook page has a date at the top--April 22, 2007. That page is from the legal pad where I first started making notes about this book, and that date is what I've been counting as my official start date. I never thought then I would still be working on it two years later. WTF?

But progress has been made, and I'm going to give myself credit for it. I also didn't know back then that I could write something book length with an intelligible beginning, middle and end. That was my only goal at that point, and I did that. It's not yet a very good novel yet, but it is a novel. It exists. Hurrah for me.

For the sake of memory lane and for the sake of obsessive record-keeping, here's a run-down of the process so far.

-Late March '07, I left my job. No intention of working on a book. I thought I would take a few weeks off before starting to look seriously for another job. I started writing a little bit in the mornings to make myself feel useful. I figured I would knock out a couple stories and maybe establish a writing habit that I could carry over into whatever new work schedule I had next. However, I enjoy it too much and start wishing that was my job.

-Early-mid April, I make sketches on several possible stories, wishing I that I had an idea that warranted a novel.

-April 22, up very early unable to sleep. Sipping my coffee, thinking about the several different stories I was stewing over, and it came to me--how to connect the different stories into a single narrative. I started writing it up on the legal pad on the coffee table.

-April 23 through May, writing every morning for 2-3 hours. At first I was telling myself that I'll start looking for a job tomorrow. Piling up about 1,000 words per hour--10,000 words or more per week. After awhile I make an internal, unspoken decision that I need to prove to myself that I can finish a complete draft of a novel before I do anything else with my life. Eventually I start talking with my wife about what this is going to mean for us financially and then jump in with both feet.

-Early August, I finish the draft at 135,000 words. For one day I'm confident that it's a masterpiece. The next day reality sets in. And I know that I don't want to do anything else but keeping working on it.

-August and September, I take several weeks off from the book and deal with money issues. I line up a mix of part-time, temp, freelance and contract gigs that I can schedule for the afternoons and leave my mornings free for writing.

-Late September, I start the first rewrite. (This is referred to as draft 3. Draft 2 was the the version I typed up from my manuscript.) This goes horribly! Months of agony, which are well-documented in blog posts from that time. I get through about one-third of the book in this rewrite. Basically, I was teaching myself through trial and error the completely separate skill of rewriting fiction.

-January, '08, my energy peters out and I spend a number of weeks not working on the book and not sure what to do. Scary time.

-February, '08, I get the breakthrough I need to get going again. I start over again with the rewrite. (This is referred to as draft 4, even though draft 3 was only ever changed in the first one-third.)

-February to May, slow, dubious, confusing work but I move steadily forward. I rewrite the first two-thirds up to the end of Part 1 with relatively more confidence.

-June and July, I was overseas. My intention was to work on rewriting the rest of the book all the time I was there, but the change of scenery apparently does me good, and I fly through it in two weeks. That's the end of draft 4. For one day I think it's a masterpiece, and the next day reality sets in. I take the rest of the time there off from the book, plus a few more weeks after returning home to get settled again.

-Late August to mid-December, I rewrite it again. (I think of this as the second complete rewrite and it's usually referred to as draft 5.) For one day I think it's a masterpiece, and the next day I tell myself to shut the hell up.

-December and January, I wait while my first reader other than my wife is looking at it. Six weeks off.

-Late January to April '09, using the feedback from my reader as a guide, complete revision in nine weeks. (See earlier posts on difference between rewriting and revision in my mind.) I cut it by about 27%. End of draft 6. I no longer form any opinion of it's quality.

-Early April to present, I hand it off to my next readers to await more feedback and guidance.

1 comment:

Anette J Kres said...

You'll get there.

You should see the list author Jennifer made for knowing when your manuscript is ready.

I linked it in my second blog post today.