I’ve been writing a novel since 2008. I’ve been writing this novel since 2009. I’ve been writing this novel since last summer.
In the scheme of things, that’s not such a long time. Consider Gladwell’s popular theory (in Outliers) that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach expertise. If that’s the case, I’d have had to write five hours a day for each of the 2190 days since I came up with this idea. Needless to say, I haven’t. I don’t.
Draft one was my first real attempt at a novel. It was practice, a scavenger hunt, the frantic medic’s search for a pulse.
Draft two was a refocusing, and a deepening. A total redo. A new narrator, a flip of the previous main- with a sub-plot. A sinking into the style my thus-far practice has earned me, as into a bubble bath with a glass of wine and a wax-sealed envelope posted from the other side of the Atlantic (which is to say, it’s a warm and sumptuous easing, not a drowning kind of sinking).
Draft three is a mess, but it’s also the most self-aware work I’ve done. This would’ve killed my Draft one, but it’s the essential bridge to the final. Draft three asks the hard questions, stemming from this one: What’s the difference between good and great? Which leads me to, “Okay, yeah. How do I do that?”
- How do I broaden and deepen the narrative?
- How do I avoid blow-by-blow first person narration?
- How do I allow a first-person narrative a wider perspective?
- How do I layer in a narrative from which the narrator is absent?
- How do I sprinkle in nonessential images/scenes without implying significance?
- How do I make backstory both present and relevant?
- How do I write thoughts, feelings, impressions as truths? How do I write uncertainty?
- How do I demonstrate sexism without writing weak females who perpetuate the problem?
- How do I seamlessly include diverse perspectives within a cultural setting that’s all too obviously whitewashed?
- How do I ensure pivotal moments of conflict provoke substantial consequences?
Needless to say, I’m not sure yet. But the best revision tool I’ve found so far (besides books, books, books) is a list of specific questions driven by insecurities.