Tuesday, August 12, 2008


When I write a novel (and I've written more than I've published), I write long -- so long that by the time I'm done with the last draft, I've written three books, not one. Most of the other two -- characters, scenes, even whole plot lines -- end up getting cut. It seems like a big waste of time; plus, if I've spent a lot of time on a scene, or particularly like the way it's worded, it's hard to just throw it away.

So this time, I thought I'd sketch the main characters and the main scenes, promising that no new people would be allowed to pop into the book. By sketch, I don't mean draw -- I mean, write roughly; though I did have a lot of fun looking at old portraits to see if I could find any of my made-up people. Some of the characters are real people, and I have portraits of them. I wish I could draw, it would be fun to actually sketch the people. But whenever I try to draw a girl, she ends up looking like me. Boys are even harder.

I was going to WRITE all the main scenes first, too, but that didn't work; I felt overwhelmed and was writing too much, not thinking enough. So now I'm going through in order, not just sketching, but writing. I SEEM to be producing more usable pages.

The hardest part is not listening to the side of me that's always criticizing and saying how terrible the whole idea is anyway. I'm trying a new way to deal with that, too: tell myself that the best way to silence that voice is to write something so good that even SHE has to respect it. And if saying that doesn't work -- I still write. The plain old butt-in-chair rule is probably the most reliable and maybe the only one that really works. When I'm writing a novel, there aren't any shortcuts.

Words in ms.: 8981 (there was a break while I wrote something else, a work-for-hire project)


alvina said...

I think it's great that you're trying to mix your routine up--I'll be curious to hear what you find works best for you! But I don't think there's anything wrong with the way you used to write, even if you felt like a lot of it was a waste--I think everyone has their own process.

Libby Koponen said...

Thanks, Alvina! That's encouraging.