Writing Novels is Hard

So I’ve done it. Finished. Completed my first novel. At least so far as it can be completed. And you know what?

It sucks.

I don’t mean to say that the writing sucks. I consider myself a decent writer, whatever others may think. But the structure sucks. I started out with this idea of a kind of double-threaded structure, using a historical event and an event in my own life that I saw as related and significant to one another, highly fictionalized of course.

Then I got lost along the way.

My first problem was I started playing with time from the get-go. I had one thread running forward and the other backward and I thought it was interesting how one revealed itself in context of the other and in light of known information (i.e. knowing the end before the beginnning). But after drafting that I looked at it and realized that it just wasn’t working.

So I set about rearranging the timeline. All right, I thought, if I just put this all back in order, then it will work. Nope. By that point the threads were so mismatched that I was just going to have to rip one out and start the whole weave anew. One thread was solid. The other just wasn’t matching up right.

That isn’t to say it was bad. On the contrary, I like a lot of what I wrote in that second, poorly lined thread. But it just didn’t match with the first. It didn’t “work” in writing parlance.

I think that I got too hung up on what I was doing and forgot to focus on how I was doing it. I was writing a novel, fleshing out characters, giving them structure and events and histories and lives. But I forgot to pay enough attention to how they were all linking up with each other in the long run. By the end, I realized, you (the reader) are just not sure what one part has to do with the other.

So I scrapped it. Not into the trash. But that second thread had to be picked out of the narrative so I could figure out what was wrong with it. What was wrong, I decided, is that it just didn’t fit with the story. It was too far off. The thing in my life didn’t match up that well with the thing in the past, or I hadn’t made it match well. It’s something I will have to carefully consider. Whether to rework that other thread and make it match the way I wanted to, or create a whole new one that will fit better with one or the other. I’m beginning to suspect the latter, though I’m loathe to consider the repercussions. That is, writing half the book all over again.

But it’s OK. This was a valuable exercise if nothing else. The thing isn’t fit to be published in its current state, but someday it will be. And in the meantime I can devote myself to other projects. Writing this proved, to myself, that I can do it. That I am capable of taking on a project of those proportions and of completing it, at least in the original sense of what I set out to do. Also of realizing its flaws and what needs to be done to correct them.

One big step along a strange and winding path leading to perhaps, one day, being able to call myself a writer.


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