I just realized something today. A few things, but I’ll get to the others in a minute.
What I realized today is: I’ve already written a novel-length story.
Ain’t that weird? I’m calling this my first novel and treating it like one, but I already have an long-form narrative under my belt. Granted, it’s fan fiction, and it’s only available on Tumblr, but I still wrote the damn thing.
Now here comes the part that threw me for a loop.
That fanfic is roughly 62,500 words long. The baseline for a literary novel is around 40,000 to 50,000 words.
Know how long it took me? About three months.
Holy fuck! How the hell did I do this?
If I’m going to make any real progress on this novel instead of struggling to get 500 or 1,000 words per day, I need to figure this out.
As I think over the experience, a few things stick out.
I used narrative stopping points, not time or length ones.
The thing about Tumblr that aided my progress the most was not having any benchmarks. Tumblr (for now) doesn’t keep track of word counts, and a post is a post no matter how long it is, so there aren’t any pages to keep your eye on.
This helped me because it forced me to remain immersed in the world of my story. When I write on my computer or on paper, I spend a lot of time measuring and worrying about hitting my numbers instead of enriching my story.
With those yardsticks out of the way, I could keep writing until hit a point where I felt the story could take a pause.
I focused on the parts of the story I liked.
It’s funny how much I can get done in fanfic that’s hard for me when it’s time to get original.
In my fanfic, characters and settings come to life so effortlessly. True, a lot of the work has been done for me by an actor or another writer, but I rarely write fanfic in such a way that someone has to be well-versed in the source material to understand who’s who and what’s going on.
I think a big chunk of my struggle comes from the pressure I put on myself to be “good” (however one defines such a thing). I “need” to have the tightest plot, the most artful use of dialogue, the leanest prose when my real interest is in the relationship between the protagonist and her love interest, the feelings of wonder and terror, a setting that feels like its own character.
I gave myself permission to let my process be my process.
My best work doesn’t get written in a linear way, though it may tell a linear story. I often start at the parts that are clearest to me and fill in the blanks later. I do this for chapters, scenes, paragraphs and even sentences.
I edit as I write. I can’t help it. Yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to do that. I do it anyway. So why not craft each sentence in the most vivid, evocative way I can?
There’s a thing that shows up in my writing that, if you’re a Stephen King fan, you’ll recognize.
There are times when I use parentheses to indicate a character’s subliminal thoughts and perceptions. This is deliberate. It creates layers in a character’s psyche without relying on lengthy descriptions. The abruptness of it can be jarring, but when a scene is jarring or confusing, this is a plus.
I flat-out stole this device from Stephen King’s novels, and it’s not uncommon in poetry.
With that in mind, I’m going to do what I do best and finish writing the damn thing.