Now I'm using the time and energy I would normally be spending on my book to sort through my possessions; donate, sell, and throw out throw out a lot (thank you for going through my shoes with me, Alvina!); and find a new place to live.
I'm going to blog about that (not here, on my personal blog), both as a way to get other people's ideas and remember what I saw.
But first: I want to write down what I learned about my process from this, mainly so I won't forget but if it's interesting to anyone else, excellent.
1. Love the idea myself, and test it before I start writing -- Raold Dahl did that, sometimes for a YEAR. By test it, he meant: think about it, attack it from every angle, to see if there's enough there to make a novel and if it will WORK. Disappointing as it is to realize that an idea I'm really excited about just won't make an exciting, interesting book, better to figure that out before rather than after spending a year or more writing it!
2. Get to know the characters -- at least the main character. More may emerge as the story develops, but I think it's a mistake to start writing until the main characters are as clear to me as, say, the characters in THE LITTLE HOUSE books (who have always seemed like real people to me, people I actually knew)....both Noel Streatfield and Dianna Wynne Jones said they spent at least 6 months getting to know the characters before writing.
3. For me, first drafts are the hardest and most painful parts of writing. I flipflop between things just coming and being very excited; and times when NOTHING comes, or what does seems so bad that I think I'm wasting my time, this doesn't even make any sense, no one is going to read it ever....blah blah.
That second feeling is hideous and painful, but it just goes with the territory-- and I need to accept it. It doesn't mean I'm doing anything wrong -- every writer I know has it.
I also need to just accept that in the first draft I really don't know what I'm doing (that comes later). Writing a book is like jumping off a cliff without a parachute -- you just have to have faith that one will blow by and you will grab it.
Also, when something just COMES, even if it doesn't seem to make sense or fit in at all with the story as I then know it: trust it. If it comes with energy and conviction, it belongs in the book and I'll figure out why and how later.
The worst thing I can do is give in to those feelings of hopelessness; the best -- work on the book every day -- even if "working" means just sitting with it, clueless about what happens next; trust what just comes; and resist the urge to chatter when I don't know. WAIT.
4. The real book emerges in the second draft. Again, once I start it -- don't stop. If I keep at it, all the baffling blanks in the first draft will get filled in. And I do mean "get filled in," if I write every day, and get into that state of thinking about the book all the time, I see what should be happening in all the scenes that WERE boring.
5. Wait to polish until the third draft--polishing done before then (except for the first scene which I do think is really important: it sets the tone and the voice) is a waste of time. If I've polished something, it's harder to take it out-- and by the third draft, a lot that's in needs to go.