Q/A: The Biggest Surprise About Writing A Novel [Also! Novel-versary Week!]

One Year Ago, Monday, I finished my rough draft.

(Or at least put down my pencil and stopped)

When you sit down to write a novel, the novel seems like the biggest thing ever. You have an idea, maybe even a plan on how it’s going to happen. But there’s over 100,000 words between you and it.

Everyone writes differently. I found word count was a good way to keep my progress going. Even if I didn’t feel like it, I would push through and get my words for the day done, knowing I could edit it later. Starting with 1,333 words per day for my kick-off month of NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month).

The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words. It’s a great start and there’s a supportive community of people all writing towards the same goal. (A standard YA (Young Adult) novel is 50,000-80,000 words. A standard fantasy novel is 80,000-120,000 words.) After taking December off, I lowered my goal to 10,000 words per month. 2,300 words a week is a much more sedate pace, and let me have a life outside of writing. A little reading, a bit of the gym, the ability to see my friends and family.

And I made it. I finished my novel after 10 months. 9, if you recognize that I took December off.

Yet, here it is, a year later and I’m STILL editing. It sometimes feel like I’ll never be done. Editing is harder to quantify, deciding when you are done is arbitrary. Like recognizing the obscene, you know it when you see it. Or, when you just can’t look at your novel any longer.

I’ve done a lot, I’ve taken a few months off to let beta readers review my work. I’ve tentatively started a sequel twice (although, as I’ve been changing the novel and the ending, the sequel is more of an idea that will need rework than a solid concept at this point.)

In my day job, I’m a programmer, we often start counting at 0. So, my drafts are labelled thus:

0 – Rough Draft (1 year and 1 day old)
1 – 1st Draft (I read through and made sure it was coherent.)
2 – 2nd Draft (I added revisions from my 1st round of beta readers, as appropriate. And rewrote the ending.)
3 – 3rd Draft (Major word count cuts, revisions from a new beta reader)

But, my newest beta reader only read the first third of the novel. So, once I finish this revision draft, I’ll be sending back out to willing beta readers, to see what they think of the edits. I imagine there will be a 4th round of edits from there.

And then?

Depends on how large the edits from that are. It will be either time for a copy-editor (sentence structure, punctuation, etc) or time to start submitting the novel to agents and publishers.

bloody keyboard gif
Am I done yet? Now? How about now?!

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