I hate this part of writing. I call it the “in-between.”
When I am in the middle of a novel project, it is easy to get pumped up about what is happening. “Hey, I wrote 5,500 words today.” “I worked out the plot hang-up and completed the chapter that had been giving me problems.” “Only 10,000 more words and I will have the first draft done.”
Those are easy days. Even the bad days when only 500 words make it onto the page are easier to deal with. You convince yourself they were good words, moved the story forward, developed the character depth. You shut off the computer and tell yourself that you made progress and tomorrow you will write more. And for the most part, the self-encouragement is all true.
That’s not where I am at right now.
I completed my novel, “Reset,” which has been sent to my beta readers and returned with suggestions. Now comes the final edits and the beginning of locating a market for it. In the meantime, I have also started research and plotting on the sequel to “Dreams of Ivory and Gold.” I would like to complete it in time to publish before the World Horror Convention in Atlanta next May.
Both are exciting projects and the work I am doing on them is important.
But the work is also very hard to quantify. There are no massive word counts each day. There are no milestones reached. Success is measured by finding that one piece of information that will make the plot work in the sequel or an interesting tidbit that gives the main character depth. Success is measured by rewriting a paragraph so the action flows or, even more minutely, making changes to two words in an entire chapter.
If you are lucky, when you start writing you meet authors who are willing to share their experiences with you. Typically, you receive the advice about “growing a thick skin” when it comes to editors or critics. “Active voice,” “show, don’t tell,” “write every day,” and “edit, edit, and edit some more” are other common tenets.
Obviously “kill your darlings” is the lesson that George R.R. Martin learned the best.
But what you rarely hear about are times like this when your production is hard to measure. I have one friend who told me this is exactly why he chooses to write primarily short stories – he can not stand waiting for the long payoff.
Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers in history and he sums up this part of the process pretty succinctly:
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
I guess it’s time to get back to work.