I don’t remember ever NOT wanting to be a novelist. I always assumed I’d need a day job, too, but ever since I was a little kid I wanted to write books.
I’ve lost track of the number of manuscripts I’ve started and discarded. Maybe about five serious attempts. I write 50-150 pages, set it aside a while, and decide none of it works when I pick it back up.
Two summers ago, when I was pregnant, I started sketching out an idea that involved new medical technology, a pandemic, a post-apocalyptic dystopia, an adult with a major case of PTSD, a handful of plucky children, and thick overtones of religion distorted by power.
Well, when I say it that way it seems obvious that I was trying to stuff too much into my plot. I was a stone’s throw away from an entire, complete, first-page-to-last-page manuscript but I was plagued by nagging plot problems. I cut down on my characters, I rearranged some of my characters and got rid of the ones that weren’t adding to the plot. I took out several pages of flashbacks trying to make the plot more simple. My thinking was this: if the plot is simple, I can see what the real major problem is, fix it, and add back everything that makes it a more rich and dynamic story.
I had 212 pages (the most in any manuscript attempt I’ve ever made). When my story opened, the main character had survived a devastating pandemic that had killed most of the world’s population. The plot, in the most basic sense, was her navigating this new world, meeting up with other survivors, etc. When I reduced the plot down to bare bones, I realized that the most interesting part of the story was what happened the week or so before my opening scene.
So, I took a deep breath and started working on outlining an entirely new plot. I hoped that maybe, in the long run, the two drafts could come together and I’d just have two books out of the deal. But of course, just writing the outline of the new draft negates a lot of my starting scenario.
Here I am, two years in, and even though I haven’t given up the idea, I’ve got another 212 pages of writing that don’t work. Again.
Part of me wants to just throw it all out the window and start over, but I still think I’ve got a good idea. This is just my creative journey. It’s a little bit windier than I would like, but I’m just doing the best I can.
And I’m going to do it anyways. I can’t run away from writing stories. The urge always catches up to me eventually.
But damn it, I’m going to finish a manuscript.
I made a spread in my bullet journal to track my word count goals. I’m shooting for 75,000 words for my first draft. I don’t have a good title yet, so I made a box to jot notes as I write. Then I made a box for edit notes, which stops me from going back to edit things as I think about them. I just need to buckle down and get the story out of me first. Then I can chop it all to hell and make something better out of it.
I’m using True Novelist to help me flesh out the different scenes and chapters. There are a couple of different moving parts, and I wanted to try a program to help me organize my thoughts.
I picked True Novelist because it’s free, completely online, and I found some comments saying it was similar to Scrivener, which I’ve heard great things about. The problem with Scrivener is that I work almost entirely on a Chromebook and Scrivener needs to be downloaded and used locally.
If nothing else, True Novelist is a shiny new toy for me to play with, and that means more time sitting with my novel. One thing I like is the stats True Novelist provides. It tracks how many words you write a day, what time of day you write, how your word count progresses over time, what your average word count is for each day of the week, and several other factors.
The picture above shows where I’m at with this brand new project. I’ve got almost 6,000 words written, although most of that is just notes on what’s going to go into each scene. It all counts, right?
This is my plan for writing this draft and finally finishing a first draft manuscript:
- Write every day, with a goal of at least 500 words
- Just get the story on paper before I try to fix all the problems
- Don’t beat myself up over how long it takes: I’m already 2 years in, I might as well take as much time as I need
- Read and read and read and read other authors in the genre
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I feel good about this one! Have any of you lovely readers ever written or wanted to write a novel?