This post, by Mistina Picciano, originally appeared on The Oolong Inkwell on 9/23/12.
For any aspiring novelists out there, how many books do you have on how to write a novel? At least a dozen are sitting on my shelf, with a handful more taking up space on my Kindle – all mocking me. I probably subscribe to the same magazines that you do, and I’ve read many of the same articles that debate the merits of outlining versus “pantsing,” or discovery writing.
All these resources have led me to one conclusion: no one can tell you the best way to write your novel.
Not really surprising, is it? After all, creativity is such a personal endeavor.
Guess what? Even writing your novel won’t necessarily tell you the best way to write your novel. It may, however, offer some valuable tips to point you in the right direction.
Trial and error… and error
My current novel project is not my first. It’s not even my second or third. It’s number four—the first not born during National Novel Writing Month.
Because of Chris Baty’s brilliance, I’m the proud parent of two very rough, completed novel drafts and 37,000 words of another novel that was my favorite writing project ever—before this current novel.
Given the nature of the assignment (50K in 30 days), all were generated via the pantsing method, which made sense since this was how I had produced all other fiction work.
Thus, I always assumed that I write best using the discovery method.
However, I suspected that something was awry when reading Stephen King’s On Writing the second time around. He described his revision process, which appears to consist of maybe three passes through the complete draft. Sure, he’s Stephen King, and he’s literally been writing longer than I’ve been alive.
As I started tackling the task of revising my first novel draft, I realized that I was going to need way more than three or even six passes. After a couple of false starts, I found myself roughly 120,000 words into the second draft—with no end in sight.
Back to the outlining board