Writing Above Ground took four drafts, five different outlines, and several years.
But when I published it I thought: that’s it.
I’ve done it once, so I can do it again — and now that I’ve learnt 6 lessons from my first novel, the second time will be easier. Faster.
I was wrong.
For the last year, I’ve spent hours toiling away at Darksight. It’s the reason why I’ve been rubbish at blogging (and tweeting, and facebooking…). I wanted to finish the novel by August 2015. Then August came around, and I pushed the deadline to December. And now, mid-January, I’m still not done.
Sure, what I found difficult the first time is easier today.
But I’ve stumbled across a whole new can of worms…
So here is a revised list of lessons learnt from writing novels:
Lessons Learnt From Writing My Second Novel
The first time’s the hardest — or is it?
When writing my first novel, I didn’t know whether I could finish a novel. But I also didn’t have the pressure to outperform my previous work. In some respects, it’s more frustrating now that I know I can do it, yet am struggling regardless.
Perseverance is key — and it’s harder alone
The webfiction community helped me push on through the first draft of Above Ground, with no time to agonise over each chapter. With Darksight, I’ve opted to write it all offline — and realised how much harder it is without the community support (and pressure to post).
It’ll never be perfect — but when should you stop?
I rewrote Above Ground countless times, watching my writing style develop, thinking it would be perfect the next time. I have rewritten and edited Darksight much less, mostly because I’ve taken a lot more time to get it right the first time. I’m not sure which method is worse: in either case, I need to remember to let go.
Outline, outline, outline — in moderation
I pantsed Above Ground. The first draft was a mess, and I swore never to put myself through that again. With Darksight, after the initial splurge I sat down and outlined the entire novel. I tried different outlining techniques and layouts, used index cards and excel sheets, tables in Word and bullet point lists. I have barely had to rewrite or edit, but have I outlined the life out of the story?
You get better at it — kind of
Plot construction, pacing, character development? I get it. Being able to write a novel quickly without running into writer’s block, whilst juggling work and social commitments? On this front, I still have much to learn.
You never stop learning
And you’ll always want to be a better writer than you are today. Just don’t forget to look back now and then, and recognise how far you’ve come.
I’ll keep you updated on my progress…