I’m in the midst of the querying and submission process for The Novel that Won’t Die, and it’s starting out quite promising. Fingers crossed, and all that. In the meantime, I’m working in earnest on the first draft of Novel #2. The only trouble is, I don’t know which novel is Novel #2. I have two first drafts of about 10K words each. Each are treading water at that point. Just as I immerse myself in one, the other calls to me. Just when I hit a wall with one, the other experiences a breakthrough. I cannot keep dividing my time and attention between these two manuscripts, but cannot seem to buckle down with simply one or the other.
The writing process (or processes, as there are so many) continually fascinates me. I believe Ann Patchett described her novel writing process in The Getaway Car as a slowly perculating thought process. I’m completely paraphrasing here, but she explained how she needed to allow her characters and plot to formulate in her mind before writing a single thing down. Sometimes, this process would take months. And we all know how J.K. Rowling credits a long train ride without a pen in her purse for the initial formation of the Harry Potter universe.
My process seems to be different. And while I know my writing process very well, that doesn’t mean it’s working for me. I can’t stand not writing things down as they come, and while I’d love to begin Chapter 1, page 1 with a full outline in tact (what a dream that would be!), both my outline and my draft are instead created simultaneously. Maybe I’m just impatient? That sounds like me. The result: I can only get so far on a summary before I have to write more text, and I can only write so much text before adding to the outline. It’s very stop-and-go. When I’m stalled on the plot, I have to take a leap and write more, not knowing where my characters will land. Then, when I’ve written my characters in a circle (or worse) because I have no direction, I have to step back and hammer out plot.
I don’t like it. I like things to be linear, and organized, and yes, in my control. I don’t believe characters dictate the story. I do. If I start considering my characters to be living, breathing people with opinions of their own, I’m officially crazy, right? Or am I officially a writer? Either way, I force them to live on paper as well as in my brain, even while little squalling infants of their fuller selves. They look pitiful there, alone on the page, and I need them to grown up already.