My current novel project was created five days ago. In five days, I have written 10,862 words — 2,172 words per day on average.
If I continue at this pace, I will have written enough words to at least qualify my work as novel-length in less than 30 day. For a novel of substance, it would take around 40 days.
Remember, I haven’t finished a novel once in the 8 years I’ve been writing. One thing I’ve learned the hard way: many words written does not a novel make. You can elaborate and dribble on about any random object or topic in your novel – it won’t get you anywhere.
To get anywhere – to finish something from beginning to end – requires focus.
“How the hell do you know? You’ve never finished a novel.”
Nope, I haven’t. But every writer I’ve known and heard of who has finished a novel always makes it sound so simple: have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Guess what? I do not have a defined middle or end. I have vague ideas swirling around in my head about what the middle and end could be. Have I written them down yet? No.
So why don’t I clearly define a middle and end?
When I write, it’s organic. Ideas grow. Characters change. They have hidden motivations that even I am not privy to until I write the words. They have realizations that I may not have foreseen about certain events which dramatically change the path of a story, regardless of whatever outline I may have established for it. Their realizations are logical and make sense considering what they experienced in the past, their personality, and even random things they’ve noticed along the way. To stick to the outline would be inauthentic. My characters would grow stale. They would do things which wouldn’t make sense within the context of the story they are laying out for me.
I am what is known as a ‘Pantster.’ I love it.
But it’s not enough. Regardless of how much ‘creativity’ I may have, I just can’t seem to complete the novels I start and which I pour so much work into.
But maybe this is a start. In my post Cardinal Sins of Writing, I explain that Sleep Exhaustion is one of my Cardinal Sins. One reason I’m sleep exhausted is because I’ve written so many words in five days while holding down a full-time job.
So, I’m going to try this. In my notes, I am going to write only one sentence for my middle and one sentence for my end. These two sentences are not allowed to change, no matter what happens with my characters. But because I won’t elaborate on them, I will run less risk of boxing my middle and end into a box of point-specific events led by (unknown) character motivations (unfortunately, my characters tell me what their motivations are – not the other way around. I’m a little crazy in the head that way.) I will need to find a way to make it work.
Please, if you have any advice for me, let me know. I welcome it with open arms.
Tonight, I will commit to writing at least a paragraph on my novel tonight so I can sleep early. Knowing me, though, this will descend into at least 1,000 words, because when I write, I become obsessed with it. I need to learn some sense of balance. After all, they say, it is the turtle that wins the race (in most cases).
Goodnight. Sleep tight, readers.