I’ve lost count of the attempts I’ve made on editing my first NaNoWriMo novel. This might be my sixth attempt I’m currently in right now.
The biggest problem I’m having is that my novel is not a cohesive statement in its current draft. Some parts are in first person, some are third. Some parts contradict other parts. Characters spontaneously change their names. People who have siblings, suddenly don’t. Career goals change….AGH! It’s just a giant mess. Kind of like if you dropped three unbound novels on the floor, picked up all the sheets and they ended up in, not only the wrong order, but in different novels entirely.
This is what happened.
In November 2007 I started the novel, got to 50,000 some odd words and stopped. I was still half-way through my story. So then in November 2008, after a whole year of doing nothing to the novel, I completed it in another 50,000 words. I’m pretty sure that’s cheating in NaNo world, but I consoled myself with the fact that I didn’t go back and read the first 50K. This means that the last 50K has some monumental differences with the first 50K. First person to third person, different names, different backgrounds, completely inconsistent novel.
Since December 2008 I’ve been trying to fix these problems, but eventually hit a brick wall and stop for months at a time. I’ve tried outlining, Scrivener features, little index cards, a new opening chapter, zodiac character sheets, and now I’ve bought some small Moleskine notebooks for note taking as I try to edit again. I’m not feeling very confident on how this one is going to turn out either, but we’ll see.
Someone suggested I abandon all hope, but failure is not an option, at least not in this case. I’ve no problem letting other things go, but I’m convinced this novel is a good entertaining story.
I’ve learned a few things in these past few years about writing that I think might help. One thing is those podcasts of Michael A. Stackpole whom I’ve mentioned before. This is where I realized I needed a new beginning chapter to my story. Also, I read Stephen King’s book On Writing. He gave some of the same advice I’ve read before, but with the added benefit of saying a writer needs to find a room and shut the door. That’d be a bit hard for me, so I settled for shutting myself in the bathroom much to my family’s inconvenience. So far my best work has been typing in the darkness of the bedroom I share with my daughter after she goes to sleep.
And also, I’ve thought about the way I write and what works for me. All my short stories were written one chapter at a time, re-writing and editing said chapter, and then posting the chapter online. So I’m going to try that method with my novel. I’m going to write a chapter. Wait. Go back and edit said chapter. Wait. Possibly edit it again while thinking of the basic plotline for the next chapter or move on to next chapter. Most writing advice folk tell you not to edit before you finish the complete first draft, but I’m going to try it my way instead because this is the method I’m used to. It’s also what I do in every instance where I managed to finish a story.
I really wanted to perhaps send out a short story in the interim, but I’m having a hard time trying to take my focus away from my novel. Plus, when I reread my first short story from last year’s NaNoWriMo, I realized that it was a pretty messy first draft.
I don’t think I’ll finish this edit before NaNo 2010, but I think it would be so much to my benefit to try. I have a feeling if I wait until after NaNo, I’m going to lose all momentum.