So I just finished my first proper novel.
(pause for happy dance)
I've written a novella and I've technically won Nanowrimo four times (but I never bothered editing those). But Freak Show, my space opera about the performers of an intergalactic sideshow, is now as complete at 85,170 words, and as polished as I can get it.
It's a weird feeling of accomplishment, pride, and bewilderment. Did I really just finish the thing I've been working on for nine months? (I totally understand why people call their books their babies; I took almost exactly nine months to bring this thing into the world, and now I'm already stressing about whether I can get it into a good college. I mean publisher.)
Anyway. I'm always interested in seeing people's writing process, so I thought I'd share mine.
I didn't allow myself to edit as I write, except for small typos and things I'd forget to change if I don't do it at that moment. It's pointless for me to go back and edit for continuity when the plot veers from my plan, because I know it could be all for naught if I change my mind again. And boy, did I change my mind. One character went from being the damsel in distress to the villain, and another went from innocuous side character to secretly the villain's minion to the person who basically saved everyone else a bunch of times.
After waiting a few weeks for the novel to "rest" (read: I never wanted to see the thing again, and also my aunt was visiting and I was too busy anyway), I read the first draft, making notes as I went (this is where I found all those snarky "notes from the editing room"). Then I went through and changed the Big Things: removing mentions of erased plot lines and characters, making sure people are always named the right name and act the way they should, making sure there's enough foreshadowing of that big important thing in chapter 12... I did some copyedits and small sentence tweaks if it occured to me, but it wasn't my goal at this point. I also wrote brief outlines for the few flashback scenes and decided exactly where they should go.
Now that I knew for sure what things I needed to reference or foreshadow, I went in and added the flashback scenes. I also finally figured out names for some of those minor planets I've been calling [Krypton] and [Gallifrey], and eliminated some other placeholders like [airplane word for "steering wheel"].
Here I got rid of all the placeholders, named the few things that still didn't have names (like the Big Evil Corporation and the Super Important Element) and did a line-by-line edit. By now the story was about as good and cohesive as I could get it (I did delete an entire scene because one of the flashbacks could convey the information much more effectively, but other than that it was pretty solid), so this involved rewriting and tweaking at the word level. I also restructered chapters. In the original draft, I had 16 chapters, about 3 scenes each. I had inserted chapter breaks as I wrote, but I didn't always have a clear direction and there was definitely room for improvement. I now have 25 chapters, most around 2 scenes long but some 3 or 4 and a few where 1 scene is its own chapter. This draft also ended up being a lot of going back to foreshadow things so the later chapters make sense.
Here, I finally did a spellcheck. My manuscript had never been spellchecked, except for by my own eyes and brief instances where I Googled something because I can never spell "bureaucracy". I'm really surprised there weren't too many problems, except I've apparently been spelling "succumbed" wrong for my entire life. I also checked on some notes I wrote during the last draft, like "How many times did I use the word 'dichotomous' or the phrase 'a long, long time ago'?" (2 and 1, respectively). This was also when I went through and standardized things like whether "forcefield" is one word or two.
So it still hasn't really sunk in how big of a deal this is. I feel a little lightheaded (but then that could be my medication... :D).
Next stop, #PitMad on September 8!