I began writing the novel on October 7, 2014.
Let me tell you what I have learned so far. But first, here are the word-count numbers:
Oct. 7: 2,494 words
Oct. 8: 613
Oct. 13: 1,584
Oct. 14: 2,023
Oct. 15: 43
Oct. 16: 1,473
Oct. 20 2,764
So far, the novel has 11,092 words (the numbers above fall short if added because of revisions here and there). This means I have 58,908 words left to reach a typical YA length of 70,000 words.
How it is going so far
The first thing I noticed is how different writing fiction is than writing non-fiction. I always loved it when I could write a story for the newspaper where there were real scenes and, heaven, real dialogue between people—but that was rare.
I was surprised when I began writing the novel how easy it was to get into the flow. I love the creation of the paragraphs and the flow of scenes. I love the variation and pacing. The music of it.
At times, it is like watching a movie. I really love my characters and how they are coming alive. I love it when I look up and three hours have gone by and I’ve been in another world.
I really love when, suddenly, something happens that I didn’t expect and it is awesome.
What I don’t love is when I can’t get in a few hours a day. I feel like it is pulling at me all the time. Write me. Write me. Write me. But I have other responsibilities and writing projects (such as my non-fiction Visions of Freedom: Wilford Woodruff and the Signers of the Declaration of Independence book and freelance writing jobs). Nevertheless, I should still be able to push it along each day.
I’m amused that as I write, the needs of the story will require me to rewrite previous things. It doesn’t matter that I have the thing outlined. I need to go back and, for example, demonstrate that Verity has a trickster side to her. Another example, I need to change the role of Lady Diewell to be more involved earlier in the story for a payback later on.
I read the first four chapters to my 11-year-old (who is worried that it will have a romance. Sorry.) and she likes it. It was very helpful to see the parts that were not clear to her and needed more explanation.
I’m simultaneously pleased with what I have written and hate it completely. I gave myself permission to write, as the audio book version of Anne Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird, says, a “Crappy first draft.”
Shannon Hale describes it this way in a tweet: “Writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
The difference between what I want it to be and what it is is so vast. But I’m laying down the words in the hope that magic will happen in the revision process. I remember James Dashner talking about his novel Maze Runner and how much it changed as he revised it and as agents and editors gave him specific advice.
One of the things I was worried about before I began writing, was that I would hurry too fast through the scenes and that I couldn’t sustain the story. As I am working on it, however, I am pleased that I am able to come up with details and action and dialogue as it is needed. I didn’t know if I could do it, but indeed I did. So far.
I don’ t know if this book will ever be published. But I am determined to learn how to write a good novel. Regardless of this first book’s success or failure, it is the first substantial step in the right direction.
So far my 11-year-old likes it. That is, by itself, some success.