So I’ve been working on my speculative fiction novel Soulless for 6 months–off and on–and there are some things I’ve come to realize.
First: Scrap it if it sucks. When I originally started I made it 14 pages in before I realized my concept was awful. After doing a bit more research and plotting an outline, I started again. This process got me to 50,000 words.
Second: Beef it up. As 50,000 words is neither a novella nor a novel, I had to decide which category I wanted. I wanted a novel. Therefore, even though I loved the 50,000 words I already had, I went back to the beginning and started looking at what could be improved. I also posted chapters on Writer’s Carnival and Querytracker and received feedback that aided in my rewriting. This led to a massive improvement in the overall story. I’ve added more depth to the beginning and fleshed out a few of the flat characters. I’ve rearranged chapters and deleted obvious and out of place segments.
Third: Keep everything! Now that I’m rolling on the fourth draft of Soulless, I’ve realized that scenes cut from previous versions are actually helpful. I’m so glad I opened a new doc and saved all that stuff–30 pages worth–because now I’m finding that some of those scenes still have a home. It’s easy to go back, do a search, and find the perfect addition to draft 4. Sometimes the scenes need to be altered, but it’s their ideas that are important, and those ideas haven’t been lost.
Fourth: Tack on the sequel. As someone who generally creates short story lines, if I go ahead and think of what I want the sequel to be, then tack that on to the end of my “standalone” novel, I find I have something of normal length. I did this with my science fiction novel (getting ready to query that one!!) and have now done it with Soulless. My 4th draft isn’t finished, but I’ve been able to add 7,000 more words and I’m only a quarter of the way in.
Fifth: Persevere. Yeah, I’m going to finish off this post with a little cheese. I’ve learned to keep pushin’ on and to believe in my overall concept. I’ve learned more about writing–about grammar and tenses and active sentence structure–which causes me to pout as I go forward, knowing the past is rife with mistakes. I’ve learned that I really do love my characters and what they’re going through, enough to put myself through the agony of rewriting over and over again. And I guess–most importantly–I’ve learned I can do this. There’s a process to writing, and I’m learning mine.