So I have finished writing this second novel. How was the past month of speed-noveling for me? Unlike any other I'd experienced before.
- I spent more time thinking about the novel than I did writing it.
- That carefully written outline and crucial notes? I've misplaced them and still haven't found them.
- Every time I carefully plotted scenes, my characters rebelled and showed me different ways. I wound up not needing my missing outline and notes anyway.
- I painfully pulled scene after scene out of my imagination.
- My writing music didn't energize me at all.
- It is closer to 60k words than the 80k I'd originally planned.
A failure? No. The story is done. It is complete, for now. I have no idea where it is supposed to go. My characters stopped speaking to me in the last chapter, and my closing scene is so centered around my main characters — they have become so strong — that I felt I wasn't even writing it. After my characters had their last words with each other, they closed their book on me.
I've been looking forward to writing this post the entire month, primarily for catharsis. What a journey. So uncomfortable. No smooth, effortless flow here. Much pondering, though not very focused. A lot of questioning myself — not my writing abilities or what I was doing, but why this process had so many bumps and gaps and "silent spaces": periods of time when I had no clue, no inspiration on what to write next.
This I learned:
- The silent spaces are an integral part of the writing process. Mysterious as they are, they are here to stay, though will vary in length and when exactly they'll surprise me again.
- My muse must have left for a holiday before New Year's, but she called in a replacement. Who did my lavender My Little Pony with a butterfly tattoo get to fill in for her? Some sort of old-school athletics coach, whose only encouragement was this sparse mantra: "You gotta be in it to win it."
- When writing is going well, it's an escape, a vacation, a passion, a calling. When writing drags its bare feet along an endless graveled road, it's a test of endurance and ingenuity to get quickly to the end.
This weekend, I'll go through my "first draft ritual": I'll choose a new three-ring binder, big enough to hold up to 500 pages, and pick a packet of printing paper with the holes ALREADY punched in it. I'll take my supplies home and set my document to print. Then I'll leave the printer, periodically checking in to make sure paper isn't running out and the draft hasn't spilled all over the floor. When completed, I'll put the pages in the binder, take a few minutes to look at it, and then set it aside.
I know I'll feel satisfied when I see this volume sitting next to its sister prequel, but I feel it will be a few months before I come back to the second book of this trilogy. I need a break from it. I haven't tapped into its complete story yet, though I know it is here within me — percolating, brewing — somewhere.
My story needs a silent space now, and so do I. I'll refill my emptied well and reflect on the words of my old-school athletics-coach muse: forget about winning it — sometimes it's just good enough to be in it.