How I write a novel (3)

See also How I write a novel (1) and How I write a novel (2)

So there I am, on the bus, discovering the route as I journey. Sometimes it all goes far too slowly to please me; at other times I race along at over 3,000 words a day. [I think the most I’ve ever written in a single day was 5,000 words]. Sometimes it feels as if I am out on the road pushing the bus; at other times the speed of the journey is exhilarating.

And then I am there, at the end. Wow. Break out a bottle of wine and celebrate!

That point can come in as little as five or six months, depending on how much my other job intrudes. But it’s only the first time I’ve driven the route, and boy, did I make some mistakes along the way. I deviated when I shouldn’t have; I failed to take some side routes that I should have explored. Some of the passengers were too quiet; others too chatty; some I forgot about and went sailing past while they waited at the bus stop. [In Gilfeather, I remember, I forgot about the dog for half the book and didn’t realise, until I reread, that he’d inexplicably vanished halfway through the book!]

As we progressed, I had attended to some of these problems, and even backtracked to solve them, but mostly I was far too anxious to reach my destination.

Now, however, I have to go over the route and again and again. How many times? Hard to say. there are parts where my driving was perfect first time around. There are other bits that get rehashed countless times – twenty? thirty? – who knows. I just do it till I get it right.

Many authors – especially new ones – tend to overwrite [i.e. say too much/repeat/over-explain] and it is at this stage that they re-route the bus, slashing out the unnecessary deviations and repetitive bits. And yes, I do that too. Overall, though, I was too anxious to reach the terminus and I always tend to underwrite. The first major rewrite often results in another 5,000 to 10,000 words being added!

Finally though, I have a story that looks good.

Is that the end it? Not by a longshot. I haven’t even looked at the fine tuning, the polishing.

More about that another day.


How I write a novel (3) — 3 Comments

  1. Sounds like quite a journey! I started down that road a few years ago myself. It seems thought that I haven’t even reached the middle yet.
    I love the analogies you used for this post. Thank you for sharing!

  2. You and Ridley Scott, Glenda! He forgot Maximus’ dog in Gladiator … *g*

    Love this mini-series. I too, on the whole, find 3000 a day a good output, though I have been known to go higher.

    Keep on sharing!

  3. It is indeed quite a journey, noradevious. And I love it. Most of it anyway…

    And Karen – one of the things my copyeditor just pointed out in the new book was that I had forgotten a dead body. There’s always something!

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