Three weeks ago I finished my next try at getting published. Its project code is “Terraforming Romance”, but it has a title. I don’t want to reveal it yet because it’s too clever, but I didn’t think of it until about 90% through.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember when I started this draft. After I finished “The Mudbow Sisters” but before I started “Naga Story”, I took a little break to do some writing exercises and fiddling around. I had three stories that I couldn’t decide which to make next, so I wrote the first 8,000 words of each to see which one felt right. That still didn’t help, so I wrote the one I liked the best and felt the most commercial. That was Naga Story, but that turned out badly. I started formal production on the outline on 11/19/2019.
Terraforming Romance didn’t have much of an outline at this point, so I took a lot of time examining the characters, fleshing out the outline, pre-writing and idea-generating. Near the time I had a first draft of the outline, Covid hit. My office closed, and I was working from home. Suddenly, my writing lunch break wasn’t so solid. I finished the outline in-between program compilings, but I lost the will to start the first draft. If I could play video games and watch movies at lunch now, why bother writing? With my routine disrupted, authorship wasn’t so much of a priority. (Especially when it seemed like we all might die any day.)
But somehow, I gathered the will to start it up. Summoning the discipline to get back in the habit wasn’t easy. My new writing spot was the basement–about two feet from where I was working, so the change of environment wasn’t so sharp. But at least I didn’t have to worry about someone barging in. And I already had 10,000 words of the first draft ready. I just had to jump off that point. The outline was divided into three acts, so I wrote one at a time. Then I’d re-examine the outline, look for unnecessary scenes, and get it ready for drafting.
I don’t remember when I formally started the draft–probably around the middle of summer? But I finished on January 19, 2021. So that’s more than a year of novel creation. Most writers say that Coronavirus is slowing down their production, and I believe them. I’m certainly no exception to that rule, even if I’m not published. But now that I got a routine going, I think it’ll go a little faster.
It’s a long one–the first draft is 140,000 words. I think that’s because it’s in first-person, something I haven’t done for a few novels now. The ability to be in one person’s thoughts lends itself to easily start slipping into “navel-gazing” at the events happening around the character. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. A lot of the female-oriented novels I’ve read have a lot of “thinking” (ex. Where the Crawdads Sing, Catherine, Called Birdy), but it’s not my cup of tea. In the second draft, I’ll have to take a machete and terminate all the unnecessary “thinking” with prejudice.
Looks like I’ll be working on this one for a long time. Ironic given that my next one I plan will be a short kids’ novel. I just hope this one ends up in something commercial enough to catch an agent’s eye. Each time I write I get a little closer to nailing those beats that make a good story.