2018 Goal: Complete a first draft of my novel by May 1, about a year after I started (or started again, having decided I had actually written the final scene rather than the first) the novel.
Jan 12, 2018: Went to a writers’ meet up. It was cold where they were sitting in the cafe so I typed with my gloves on. When I left, I decided I couldn’t go back until warmer weather.
February 1, 2018: Started thinking the novel would be 400 pages rather than 250, and I wasn’t going to be able to get all of those pages written, even in first draft, by May 1, so I should probably go ahead and extend my self-imposed deadline. And it’s a real shame since I prefer novels to be in the 250-300 page range.
March 1, 2018: Opened up my manuscript, and noted my page and word counts.
April 1, 2018: I’d left the manuscript open for a month, and added another possible epigraph, increasing my word count by 25.
May 15, 2018: Completely ignored self-imposed deadline had come and gone. Deleted the epigraph I added in April. Added the counts on a post-it I kept stuck to the computer monitor.
June 1, 2018: Manuscript has been open for two months in the background. Prompted to install Microsoft Word updates, so forced to close the manuscript. Will not open it until mid-July.
August 24, 2018: Take printed copy to writers’ meet up to line edit. Disgusted with the scene: three characters in a room. Triangulation — it should work but it isn’t. I won’t figure out until October that while the meat of the scene is good, I’ve put the wrong three characters together in the room. I have the power to change the dynamic and make it more impactful. I still don’t know why it took me so long to figure that out.
By the end of the year, I’ll have added a total of 4,000 words to my manuscript, most of which I’m dissatisfied with. I could edit on the sentence level, but it is not the most productive use of my time. What I have done, what I can say with confidence I’ve accomplished, is that I know a lot more about what I do and don’t like in storytelling, what does and doesn’t work for me. I read 53 books, not counting stand-alone short stories and essays. More than a book a week. I’ve thought a lot about why I’m making certain decisions, who my characters are, what they look like. I feel as though I’m waiting for my brain to finish digesting everything I’ve fed.
A writer friend said to me, I wonder if you’re the kind of writer who plans and plans and then sits down one day and bangs out a complete draft. Truthfully, I don’t know what kind of a writer I am because I’ve never done something like this before and I’m working it out as I go. It’s painful. It’s slow.
2019 Goal: Complete a first draft of my novel. It’s the same goal as I had a year ago. I like to think, no believe, that I can do it, that I will do it.
Melissa Koss is a Senior Associate Fiction Editor for The Flexible Persona.