Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Life Cycle of a Novel January 23, 2012

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 7:24 PM
Tags: , , ,

I skipped Blogging the Bible yesterday, mostly because it’s gotten boring and I don’t think anyone cares anyway. Instead, I’m writing a potentially equally boring post that slightly more people might care about. Or maybe not, but at least it’s about writing.

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I’m usually a first draft kind of girl. I write the book, turn up my nose at its craptasticness, and move on. My current project is the only novel sized piece of writing that I’ve really endeavored to polish. And let me tell you – polishing is a pain in the butt.

It’s rather interesting, though, to get a feel for how long a book really takes when you follow it through all the stages of its life cycle. Everyone does it differently, of course. If you follow a formula, novel writing can go pretty quickly. I’ve heard of one romance novelist who could write a book in five days, which seems like it would result in rather low quality offerings, but what do I know? Anyway, this is how the progression has gone for me:

April – mid July: First draft phase.  For me (again probably because of my NaNo practice) this is the easiest part. I can jot down anything and ignore how bad it is. First drafts are supposed to suck. Or perhaps ‘expected’ is a kinder word. This phase is when you experiment. I swapped POVs twice and added/subtracted the occasional character. At last, in mid July, I crossed the finish line with 58,000 words. The story was basically finished – the plot worked out, all main road marks set. The skeleton was in place.

Late July – November: Break. It’s important to take a break from your manuscript once it’s done, so you can go back to it with fresh eyes. I wrote the occasional scene or dropped in for a quick edit once and a while, but for the most part I left my novel alone. After all, I had school, and IB senior year has a way of catching one’s attention.

Late November – end of December: Broad revisions. Done with NaNoWriMo but still willing to write, I returned my focus to my current project. I rewrote the entire climax, added or tweaked plot points, and altered a few characterizations. My word count swelled to 72,000, even after my dramatic ‘was’ purge.

Where does this leave me? I took another break through January, but as the month ends, I want to start up editing again. Now, however, I’m returning to the finer brush I mentioned earlier – line editing. Basically, I plan to read it over, fix any minor details, and keep an eye out for awkward sentences. I’ll also read dialogue out loud to make sure it works, double check calendars, and all the other crazy minor stuff that’s so important.

With any luck, and schedule allowing, I’ll be done with line edits by early summer. Then I can finally grit my teeth and send the manuscript off to beta readers. And what after that? Well, I’m not sure. I’ll have spent over a year on this novel, which is a pretty crazy investment of time in itself. I don’t know where I want to take it from here.


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