Stalled out at just under 20,000 words. I have read and re-read my manuscript a dozen times in search of a sign. One line to say “Hey, tell me more HERE!” And when it refuses to speak… I pull my hair, bite my nails and then… I seek out advice.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking personally with Erika Robuck, author of the acclaimed novel, Hemingway’s Girl. I asked her if she might offer her advice, some simple words of wisdom to an aspiring novelist such as myself and she replied with a quote from Hemingway. “Remember,” she said, “the first draft is always shit.”
I could not agree more at this point.
Although I truly feel, deep down, that the story I am trying to tell is important in its own way. And believing that my character has so much to say, I can’t help but fear that I am saying too much. When reading his story from beginning to end, I am left with a mix of emotions. On one hand, the story is told. It is complete. All that I wanted to say is said. On the other hand, I question whether or not all that he has to say has been said.
I had begun to feel as though my story may only develop into a novella (if I’m lucky) because of the constant battle against the ideas in my head. Telling myself, ‘That’s too much. It will drown out the story.’ or ‘Would the reader really be interested in knowing this?’ But for me, the idea of an extremely rich, shorter story of a novella, over a long, dull, drawn out novel…doesn’t sound so bad to me. My goal is to keep the reader fully engrossed throughout. This is my first novel after-all and there is that whole thing about first impressions.
I asked Erika to tell me her thoughts on how I might get a better handle on the writing process.
“I’d read Stephen King’s ON WRITING for a feel for the process,” she said. “Then, with a first draft, just purge your mind and don’t worry if it makes sense.”
That was exactly what I needed to hear! I had been agonizing. Trying to find the perfect ‘spot’ in the story, a place I could manage to elaborate, I would feel as though I was forcing it to make sense. And if I couldn’t find the right place, or that perfect transition, then it was pointless to continue writing. This left me with many days of no progress. My character had to sit and wait for me to figure out what he was going to do next. When instead, he could have led me all along, had I just continued to write rather than revising every paragraph to prepare for the next.
“Revisions are when you tear it apart and put it back together,” Erika said to me, “trust the process…”
And so I must.
I now pick up my armor and shield, and march on. 18,505 words and pushing forward. Reminding myself to stop re-reading and just write it for crying out loud!