I call myself (i.e., have come to accept being called by others) the tiniest writer, but my writing tends not to be tiny. (I have talked about this some in the past.) Most of the projects I take on with excitement are novels, as opposed to short stories, and a few years ago when I experimented with screenwriting, I did much more with full-length screenplays than shorts.
I’m not a novel-writing expert. I’ve never sold or published a book, and although I’ve finished several drafts—both first drafts and revisions—I’ve never felt like a project was really and truly complete (although from what I hear, it’s possible I never will). Still, I have finished several drafts, so that bumps me a step ahead of other aspiring novelists who have shoe boxes (or, I suppose, computer files) full of first chapters and nothing else.
I’ve been talking to a writer friend recently about doing our own -NoWriMo—the write-a-novel-in-a-month deal. She’s made a couple novel attempts in the past, but she always loses direction/momentum/something part way. She asked about my preparation process, which got me thinking about it in specific terms, trying to articulate it.
One difficulty I have in explaining this is that my drafting process is often sprawling, in a sense. I can finish a draft in relatively short order, but I often find a deep structural or conceptual flaw with it during the revision process and end up setting it aside for anywhere from months to years. My most recent project is a reworking of one I first drafted in 2008, and perhaps four years is the magic period, because in 2010 I re-envisioned a novel from 2006. This is how a lot of my writing goes—I go through multiple iterations before settling into a final form—and as a result, it’s hard for me to point to one outline or preparation process, because I draw from multiple processes.
I was able to point to a few techniques I’ve used, sometimes in combination, that have been useful in helping me develop direction so that I can progress through the first draft without losing momentum. I find that this—momentum—is the most important factor for me in determining whether a novel gets written or not.
I need to start coming up with a concept for our small scale -NoWriMo, tentatively slated for February. As such, I think my next several entries will be dedicated to presenting each of these approaches and testing some of them out.