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Making It Sing

January 28, 2013

Image courtesy of 'Kimberlee Kessler Design'So, you ask, how is that novel coming along?

I kinda figured my novel-writing journey wouldn’t be an expressway, but sometimes it feels like I’m on a bus headed to the wrong side of town.

I always thought writing a novel would be like wandering from the Shire to Rivendell, but mine often feels like it has ended up on top of Mt. Doom.

And it seems that most writers’ story-writing sewer pipe leads straight to the street, but mine stops in the garden, then shimmies under the driveway and even takes a turn or two around some tree roots.

What am I trying to say with all these awkward metaphors?

Writing my first book is taking a really long time. How long?

Okay, I’ll come clean.Image courtesy of Barry Meyer @ stock.xchng

The first draft- and I use the term ‘draft’ loosely here, being the first story I ever wrote, long, short, or otherwise- was completed in September of 2009.

Yes, you read that right.

Two Thousand and Nine.

Why is it taking so long to share this story with the world?

Revision, my friend, revision …

Here is a picture of where I’m at with it:Lesson 18-Chapter 35

Chapter Thirty-Five, you say. What’s the problem? That’s pretty far along in a forty-three chapter novel, isn’t it?

Not really.

I started this pass of my revision (line editing for usage, self-indulgence, and commas) near the end of the story because I couldn’t stand to look at Chapter One anymore! I’m seriously starting to wonder if I will ever finish this story.

This is not my inner editor talking here. This is the voice of reason. I look at my words and I know they are not ready. Some of them are, and that’s how I know that I’m being realistic. I think I’m close, but there are quite a few sections that need some more work.

It probably doesn’t help that I keep scampering off to write other novel first drafts, five in all (finished) since I started Image courtesy of Irina Tischenko @ Big Stockrevision on The Tempest’s Serenade. I like to stretch my storytelling wings once in a while and it feels so good!

I’m here to announce that I’ve made a decision about my direction. After the second pass of block revision, (I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a third) I’m going to try to sprint— all right mosey, this is the scenic route after all— to the end of the How To Revise Your Novel course, whether or not the final result ends up being a publishable draft.

I’m on Lesson Eighteen of Twenty-Two. At the rate I work, it is conceivable that I could get through them all by summer. Maybe even in time for the Create Space offer for NaNoWriMo winners?

Someday, perhaps The Tempest’s Serenade will take the world by storm … but for now, I want to do my very best to make it sing.

How long do you think it should it take to write a novel? And what do you do to stretch your wings?Image courtesy Kate Childers @ stock.xchng

Images courtesy of ‘Kimberlee Kessler Design’, Kate Childers and Barry Meyer @ stock.xchng, and Irina Tischenko @ Big Stock

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23 Comments
  1. January 28, 2013 7:52 pm

    Writing a novel takes exactly long as it takes. I know. So helpful. Stories being what they are, however, some are sociable, chatty personalities, done writing their life stories quickly. Others… aren’t. They’re taciturn and stoic and take their own sweet time divulging any secrets. And then there are the coy ones… :eyes novelette warily: Yes, it always depends. I just keep putting one word in front of another until it all grinds to a halt or something happens.

    • January 28, 2013 8:15 pm

      Hi Liana, 🙂
      What you write makes a lot of sense to me–but since this is my first book, I’m always second guessing myself, about everything! It’s good to know there will come a time when this one’s done with me. Meanwhile, it consumes me and I’ll be sad when it’s over.

  2. January 28, 2013 8:33 pm

    I’ve heard it takes 6 months (!) to four years to write your first book. Hey, we’re right on schedule. HTRYN has helped tremendously, but it’s time to wind this baby up and move on. I’ve noticed Lessons Eighteen and Nineteen are moving faster and faster as I approach the end of the novel – it’s taken sooo long to write my wonderful story that I’ve become a better writer than I was in 2009. I’m approaching the event horizon of creativity:) At the same time, I agree with you. I’ll miss the people in this novel. A lot.

    • January 29, 2013 7:01 am

      I like that: the event horizon of creativity. 🙂
      I agree, I’ve grown so much as a writer since finishing my very first draft that I can hardly believe it sometimes. 🙂 In fact that might be part of the problem. I see so much that I can make better in this story that I didn’t see before!
      In the end though, it might the allure of other stories to write that compels me to finish this one.

  3. January 28, 2013 9:05 pm

    I also don’t think there’s any set amount of time . . . but at the same time, I know there comes a point where we have to walk away from a ms. and move on. 18 Things was my third novel, but the first to get pub’d!

    • January 29, 2013 7:03 am

      18 Things is on my Kindle and I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for the input. I can see that I might need to put a time limit on this one, and move on. We’ll see what some of my beta readers think …

  4. January 28, 2013 11:40 pm

    Come on K, we are behind you. I KNOW it is already darn good. Just finish tweaking and get it out the door.

    How long does it take — everyone is different. I started my current WIP in April 2012 and hope to have it published by this Summer. After that I want to get the next one in the series out by Spring 2014 and then the third by the end of 2014. At least that is my plan, but compared to many others it would probably be considered fairly aggressive. I am counting on the more times i do this the less time it takes each time.

    • January 29, 2013 7:06 am

      Thank you so much Papabear. Your input has meant a lot to me on this so far, and helped me push and pull a lot of loose ends into shape. 🙂
      Gosh I hope my next stories don’t take as long as this one, because if they do, I really am doomed as a writer!

  5. January 29, 2013 7:08 am

    Good for you for hanging on in there in spite of all the distractions and dead-ends and one-way-streets and worse. I love the likening it to going to Mt Doom 😀 I know where you’re coming from on that one!

    I too started Mystery in Morocco in 2009, and had just started doing the second revision (which still needed major changes) when Mr Prue died last year. I feel the story in jinxed and, to be honest, feel a bit scared of ever working on it again … and yet, it’s started calling to me and I know it’s a good story.

    So, hang on to that book of yours Kristen. It has you in it, body and soul, blood sweat and tears. It’s yours and no one else’s and you should be extraordinarly proud of your achievement. It’s one helluva huge achievement! Not only that, you took up WABWM and gathered together a number of like-minded people who are each of them on their own journey. It’s not an easy journey, the path is rocky, but the rewards are enormous.

    Even if you end up at the top of Mt Doom and feel your heading towards the flames, don’t forget … there’s a terrific view from up there 😀

    Prue x

    • January 29, 2013 6:54 pm

      Thank you, Prue! And, of course, the hobbits prevailed over the evil Sauron in the end!
      I was actually editing a section of my story yesterday that made me think of you and how you feel that your story is jinxed. My protagonist explains how he doesn’t care whether people think his guitar is bad luck, let’s see if I can find it … here it is,

      “My dad bought for me when I turned thirteen. It’s vintage, check it out.” He rushed ahead of her and lifted the instrument from its stand. The mirror-smooth surface flashed in the light as he held it out for her to admire.
      “Manufactured back in ‘67, before they started making them in China.” His eyes met hers with that questioning stare that made her heart stutter. “There’s a story behind it.”
      “What kind of story?” She touched the shimmering glazed surface, letting her finger glide over the glitter embedded in the varnish.
      “They didn’t want me to have it. Said it was bad luck.”
      “Bad luck?” Her eyebrows knitted and she pulled her hand away, afraid of his answer.
      Nick set the guitar gently back into its stand, his gaze lingering on it before he turned back to Libra.
      “Whoever played it had bad things happen to people around them. A club started on fire. A guy’s girlfriend–” he stopped and touched her arm. “I don’t believe that shit though. Bad things happen for no reason at all, not because someone plays a nice guitar.”

      So, my point Prue, is that you were meant to be here for a reason, we all are! I may have found mine in this book and in my passion for writing. I hope I can help others find theirs. 🙂

  6. January 29, 2013 8:10 am

    I know how frustrating the wait can be. I’m sort of in the same boat on my 3rd manuscript after trunking the other two. Writing is hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

    • January 29, 2013 6:57 pm

      Absolutely right Shell. 🙂
      A month or so ago, I was pretty sure this one was going to end up in the trunk as well, but some great comments from critiquers started my momentum back up.
      All the great comments here are helping me a lot too. I should have posted this for IWSG!

  7. January 29, 2013 10:24 am

    Yeah, novel writing is not just a highly personal business, but well, it’s different for everyone. I know someone who did a once over edit of their nano novel and it got published (!!!!). Then there’s me who rewrote one of my early novels from scratch, taking 6 months to make a first draft in need of love and editing (and I expect it to take another six months before it’s ready for prime time!). How long? Forever? Next week? It’s impossible to know at the beginning. Hopefully, you’re starting to get a hint at when the end might be.

    • January 29, 2013 6:59 pm

      I’m very close Rena. 🙂 Which, on one hand, is a really exciting place to be, but on the other, I look back and think how long it took to get here. I might need to stop doing that, and rejoice in the moment!

  8. January 29, 2013 9:55 pm

    I know something about how you feel. I only made it to HTRYN lesson 7 before I started to have feelings that I was going too slow and maybe I was doing it wrong. But now I’ve switched gears and I’m using my story collection as a vehicle for learning HTRYN, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to make more encouraging progress that way. It’s still pretty tough while going to school and all, but all I can do is the best I can.

    But it sounds like you’re getting close, and that’s awesome. And I do believe when Holly said that this first revision will definitely be the worst, and not what every revision is going to be like, so try to keep that in mind as you keep going forward. And know that when you’re ready to sell your book, you already have people lined up and ready to buy it 🙂

    • January 31, 2013 6:50 am

      One of the hardest things had to be putting aside all the self-doubt as I realized I’m probably the slowest person in the ‘class.’ I still struggle with that once in a while. For me, slow wasn’t wrong, just meticulous.
      I can’t say enough good things about the result though. Especially in other people’s stories, and even published work, I can zero in on what is missing, or what makes a story great. My own stories are a bit more difficult to decipher, but I’m hoping with practice I’ll get there. 🙂
      Do your best with it. I think take a shorter piece through the course is a great idea, especially since you’re trying to juggle school and writing at the same time.

      It’s really great to know people would actually pay $$$ 🙂 for my book! It makes me want to be extra sure it’s the best I can make it.

      • January 31, 2013 9:34 am

        It definitely seems like it can take a long time to work through HTRYN for the first time. I think I spent like 3 or 4 months just on my 1B worksheets. I have a hard time seeing how the entire process can eventually collapse into a small fraction of the time, but maybe it speeds up a lot after revising a book or two and getting to the point where we’re doing all the steps in one pass, instead of many. That’s where I’m hoping that revising some short pieces will help a lot.

        Are you going to self-publish your book, or look for a publisher?

        • January 31, 2013 7:12 pm

          It’s funny that people are starting to ask about how I plan to publish, because all I really set out to do in the beginning was write a really cool book! I’ve been researching publication a bit now, and it’s quite confusing, but also exciting.
          At this point, I’d love to work with an agent who both believes in my work and knows the industry well enough to know where to sell it. I realize that will cut into my share of the proceeds–but remember, all I really wanted was to write a really cool book. Traditional publishing, from what I can tell, offers access to professional editing and cover artwork, blurbs etc.
          And, best of all, I can focus on writing more really cool books. 🙂

          In the meantime, though, I really need to streamline this revision process …

          • February 3, 2013 2:20 pm

            I think “writing a really cool book” is probably the best goal to have in mind when working on one. Seems like if we get to where we’re doing that, the rest will fall into place 🙂

  9. January 31, 2013 6:23 am

    I think it depends. I’ve heard of authors (usually muti-pubbed authors) completing a book in months and I’ve heard of authors who polish a ms for years.

    The way I see it at this point in my writing journey is: the more we learn, the less mistakes we make as we write and the less we have to fix later. My first WIP has been through a ton of changes (and still needs more), but with my third, I doubt my critters will find much to mark.

    • January 31, 2013 6:52 am

      I knew a first book would be a challenge. The hardest part seems to be knowing when I’m done, or if I shouldn’t just put it aside …
      No doubt about it though, I’m learning a lot in the process!

  10. February 2, 2013 11:09 am

    Something I wonder about everyday! I don’t know how long it should take. Some writers are slower than others. I started my story…well, like you said, “started” can be a tricky word…but I supposed I began to physically type the first draft in January 2011…and here I am two years later, yep, you guessed it, still revising. You know the stage of my story, and I think I’m going to give it two or three more revisions (I’m aiming for nine months here) and then say “that’s it,” I’m looking for an agent. No matter what, an agent who picks up your story is going to make additional changes, so at some point you just have say enough is enough.

    Give yourself a time frame, do a baseline edit, and a call it a day. I agree what some of the other commentators here…the first novel will take longer than the others. I mean we have jobs, no editors, etc. Plus, no deadlines…and the second is always easier than the third and so on.

    Though I’ve heard of some authors saying that everything they start a new book it’s like they start from scratch…they know nothing again and they have to relearn it all…yikes!

    • February 2, 2013 8:45 pm

      You’re so right! I am learning a lot with every pass on this revision, and, despite some missteps along the way, I feel as if I’m getting close to what I had in mind when I started writing this story.
      If you could see the story I started with you’d agree that I’ve learned a lot–except that no one will ever see those very first, very clumsy drafts!
      A large part of what I’ve learned is about how to change things and revise, so I agree, once the story reaches an agent, that will be a skill that comes in handy. 🙂

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