Endless posts on writing but no sign of publishing a novel; what’s taking so long?
It’s not one novel but three in a series; plus a novella to offer as a reader magnet*.
Meanwhile, Real Life gets in the way. You’ll see some authors boast they can write a book every [month/six weeks/six months/year]. I can’t answer for the quality of their writing or their days jobs if they have them.
Perhaps one day I can crank out fifty thousand (quality) words a month. But not yet. I’m still learning writing craft, discovering narrative voice and trying to write prose that doesn’t suck. I used to think I could write dialogue, plot and action, but the current edit of Book One says otherwise.
My early drafts aren’t just dirty drafts, they’re garbage. Before I revise, I have to put them on one side and leave them for a while to get some objective distance. It’s a necessary part of my revision process.
First pass, eliminate the garbage; cut the filler and the crutch words, tidy up the prose, spelling, grammar; try to make it readable.
Then I have to get a draft in front of my editing ‘team’ for developmental editing advice. And it took me a while to find these three wise heads.
After developmental critiques, another round of edits follows.
What my initial three drafts lack is focus.
I didn’t articulate goals and motivations, so the conflicts lacked impact and the resolution was unearned.
Seeding and Foreshadowing
Plotting one book, then plotting across a series is definitely a challenge.
The fantasy element of my plots introduces complexity. Premonition brings the same pitfalls as time travel. Working out who knows what, when, and how reliable that is became a major sticking point. Throw in a little determinism, spiced with cause and effect, suddenly you’re in a bind worse than the Terminator franchise.
The challenge is knowing what to include and what to leave out. How unreliable is my narrator? What secrets does she keep?
Fantasy authors often refer to the iceberg method of world-building. Put in twenty years work like Tolkien, you can only include so much of it without boring the reader with your world’s encyclopedia. Do the bare minimum you need to locate the plot, you need to convince the reader the rest of your world’s encylopedia sits below the waterline.
Either way, that takes time. I keep finding little details missing.
I don’t always frame my themes well in early drafts. The nature of the genre fiction I write isn’t complex when it comes to themes. They’re not explicit but they are present, bound as they are to genre expectations.
The Case for Short Fiction
I’ve written a lot of short fiction since I started drafting back in 2021. There’s nothing like the constraints of a flash-fiction prompt to bring focus to a piece.
I’ve also used short fiction as a relief from long-form, so I can have a little fun, branch out and get a sense of short term accomplishment. These pieces aren’t always finely polished or edited but the drafts work. They also divert attention in those fallow periods when I leave the long-form to brew for a while.
The train arriving on Platform 13…
That’s a long train. Actually that’s three long trains.
This is what’s taking so long.
*And the reader magnet is a thing of it’s own. More on readers magnets soon.