The secret is out: 10 thoughts on nearly finishing a long-haul novel

It’s been a long journey. Five years ago, I started my novel Ever Rest. Fifteen drafts, and I now have the manuscript in a state where it’s fit to show to another person.

For the first time ever.

A curious feeling.

Like unveiling a massive secret

I never talk much about a work in progress (I’ve got a post about that here). I have never workshopped this novel or discussed it with a critique group, though I did base it on a short story I workshopped many years ago.

When I began in 2014, I brainstormed the concept with Husband Dave, but the book is now as far from those original thoughts as a wineglass is from sand.

I have shared tiny morsels of the plot with experts for research. Thank you, pathologists, musicians, priests, media lawyers, artists, expeditioners and mountaineers who answered my questions.

But the whole thing, I have kept to myself, done entirely alone.

Words in, words out

To begin with, I worried it would never get big enough. I had to change from short-form to long-form thinking (here’s a post about that).

For a while, I was pleased any time the wordcount went up. In the late drafts, once I knew what it was, I was relieved to see it drop again.

Under a crazy spell

In these finishing months, I have been a diligent writer and a negligent author-publisher. I’ve kept up with news about ways to stay visible and leads to pursue. I’ve made to-do lists. And I have not done them.  The book needed my undivided attention and I could not imagine doing that other stuff, or how I had ever done it before.

But now it’s like a craze is passing. A sense of other priorities is returning.

It’s been like beginner dating

In the beginning, I was eager for comparison titles. Who were the readers who might get it? I looked for comparisons, according to themes, locations, inciting incidents. They were most unsuitable.  Very well, it would be a misfit, so I wrote in a state of defiance, like a bolshy teenager. Now it’s become a recognisable shape after all, different from my expectations. I know where it might find friends.

I can break my reading diet

A developing book is fly paper. Any idea, style, mood might stick to it, and particularly from other books. See here for my detailed post about what I read while I’m writing.

Now, I can choose books for pure interest.

More to come

It’s not finished. There will be much to refine. but compared with what I’ve already done, the remaining work will be small. Details will change. Technicalities, repetitions. unclarities. plot goofs, realities I need to make more real. Layers that need more sparkle – or less. emphases that need to be adjusted. But it is now what it is. All changes will help it do that better.

Making new humans

There are people who compare the writing of a book to motherhood. I’m not a mother so I won’t appropriate that comparison,  but I find I relate to the singleminded purpose that develops through a pregnancy. In this way, making a novel seems like making a new human. except I have made at least seven with hearts to inhabit, and several more who will test them. No wonder it’s been intense.

Empty nest

I am missing those characters. They are not completely lost to me, of course. I may have to adjust them. Later, the production phases will require that I read and reread anyway. But I miss that I might have no more to discover about them, no more to give or take away from them, because that was one of the pleasures of knowing them. Perhaps it’s good that I am not a parent. (There’s more about how to parent your characters here.)

Heart in mouth

Now it’s ready to be tested. A tightrope moment. Best not to look down.

It’s not over yet.

But it feels like it is.

Thanks for the pic Gusaap on Pixabay

PS There’s loads about organising a rewrite (or several) in my workbook

PPS More on editing fast, editing slow… here’s what’s been happening in my creative world this month

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  1. #1 by Viv on July 27, 2019 - 8:22 am

    BRAVO!!!!!!!!!
    Can you hear me applauding from rainy Norfolk???
    Your achievement gives me hope. I began something a couple of years ago, and it’s dribbled out, bit by bit, and am starting to think it may be something. I also began something last autumn, which was intended to be a short story but which soon said, I am bigger than that by far. I wish I were able to give it the attention it deserves but this year has gone south in ways I cannot begin to detail other than that it may be my 2nd worst year in my whole life so far.
    I am also a person who doesn’t say much at all about a WIP, and I get very concerned when others do.
    I shall watch developments with great interest.

    • #2 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on July 28, 2019 - 9:27 am

      Thank you, Viv! Hearing you from rainy London – in all ways. So sorry to hear about your bum year. xxx

  2. #3 by Maria Donovan on July 27, 2019 - 8:40 am

    Exciting times, Roz! A novel can be such a long haul – this one is truly yours and such an achievement. You can be your own mentor! Wishing you all the best for success in whatever way that comes.

  3. #5 by Cathy Cade on July 27, 2019 - 10:15 am

    I abandoned my novel for short stories – shorter workloads and quicker feedback.
    As an absolute beginner, I think it has been helpful, but I’ve now lost that single-minded novel focus.
    I’ve learned a lot – not least how to self-publish as I formatted and copy-edited our writing group’s anthology. (I think I’m better at the technical stuff than the creative stuff). Now I’m not sure I have the staying power (or confidence) to write a novel.
    I have two first-drafts for children’s books – well, one only needs a final polish to enter into this year’s comp… Will it get there?
    I applaud your staying power. Good luck with the polishing and the querying.

    • #6 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on July 28, 2019 - 9:32 am

      Hi Cathy! You might find you develop the stamina for bigger books, but if you don’t, write what suits you. And best of luck with your competition.

  4. #7 by MG Mason Creative on July 27, 2019 - 12:44 pm

    Great post, thanks Roz!

    I’m in a similar situation. I have a 6-year old WIP which has had more progress this year than the last three years put together. The characters I’ve created are the most complex and intimate I have ever created. They feel, as you said, just like real people.

    When I finish writing this book, I’m going to miss writing about the six main characters. Partly because each of them represents (not deliberate – I simply had a penny drop moment this year) that each is a facet of my personality. So this has been a journey of self-exploration too.

    • #8 by Viv on July 28, 2019 - 9:06 am

      Yes, to the unexpected self discovery. I realised a while ago that characters often do represent aspects of self, and the nastier they are, the better it is for me to acknowledge my shadow side.

    • #9 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on July 28, 2019 - 9:31 am

      What you say about characters is so interesting. This intimate knowledge of them is hard to give up at the end. And the things one learns about oneself while writing them. In order to understand them, I have to understand what it feels like to be them, which means I have to try on their emotions and worries, which means I find their responses in myself. They don’t behave as I would behave in real life, but they behave as I would behave if I had that past, or those triggers, or that particular fear. They are me, but not-me. Complicated!

  5. #10 by Bob J. on July 27, 2019 - 8:49 pm

    I can wholeheartedly recommend “Nail Your Novel” if you get stuck. 🙂

  6. #12 by dgkaye on July 29, 2019 - 1:10 am

    Congrats on your upcoming birth Roz. I did notice your absence. 🙂

  7. #14 by James King on July 29, 2019 - 8:56 am

    Seems like you needed to get that out Roz. I can imagine how you feel. It’s a lonely business and there’s always so much to do before you let your babies fly. Good luck.

  8. #16 by andreapawley on July 30, 2019 - 9:33 pm

    Congratulations on your amazing progress, Roz! I’m so pleased for you. And I’m so glad the world has another novel from you to look forward to.

  9. #18 by jennifermzeiger on August 12, 2019 - 9:53 pm

    Love your sand to wineglass comparison. What a great way to imagine a rough draft compared to a finished, or close to finished, manuscript! Good luck as you continue with Ever Rest.

  10. #20 by floatinggold on September 12, 2019 - 6:31 pm

    Not often do we read about authors who don’t constantly show their work off to other people. I thought I was weird by guarding my WIP so strictly.It made me feel like I was doing something wrong, almost. This post reassured me that, like with anything else, we all do things in different ways and that’s alright.

    Your steps seem spot-on.

    • #21 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on September 12, 2019 - 8:44 pm

      What a great point! I’ve never felt comfortable doing that. I want to burst out with the book when it’s fully ready, as perfect as possible. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

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