I was chatting to friend Sue earlier this week and she posed the following question:
“What do you think is the hardest part of any major creative project? For me and for my writing it is starting. Taking that leap of faith that your idea will work and that it is worth investing your time and energy into.” Sue Jeffrey
I’d have to agree that starting can be very daunting. It’s a bit like starting a train rolling, taking off in a plane or a moving large vehicle of any kind. Most of the energy is expended in starting. Once moving, the energy needed to keep going is vastly reduced.
Writing is very similar, but once started I find that the story builds its own momentum and carries me along with it. That’s exciting, and momentum builds its own form of energy and sustains the forward movement. I have found that to be true when writing my most recent work, a novel for children. I struggled to get the first few chapters going, but once I was several chapters into the story, it developed its own momentum, building up a head of steam that kept the wheels of my locomotive turning faster and faster until the destination was reached.
One of the interesting observations from all those who have read the whole book, including my examiners for my MA, is that the latter two thirds of the novel are far stronger than the beginning, with the exception of the first chapter. I’d agree because once I’d built that momentum the writing became progressively easier. That first chapter went through many revisions and major rewrites, so no wonder it is good.
While I agreed with Sue that starting a new writing project is hard, I find that rewriting and editing can often be the hardest part for me. Once I get under way I find that the story often carries me along, an enjoyable place to be. I just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Yes, sometimes the ride can get a little bumpy, but the thrill of discovering what happens – even when I have a strong plan and outline – outweighs any periods of momentary discomfort.
I find the necessary stages of rewriting, editing and proofreading to be tedious, mind numbing and even boring at times. I know what happens, I know the characters and I want to leave them and start something else – to go on a new adventure.
These latter stages are terribly important, especially if one wants to see the story published. During my degree I learned to not only appreciate this vital process, but I also realised how creative editing and rewriting can be. The finished creative work is much better, stronger and publishable than that rough gemstone we call our first draft.
Still harder yet
There are three even harder elements to the creative process like writing a novel or story.
- Deciding when the story is polished enough to send to a publisher.
- Deciding where to send the story.
- Waiting for a reply.
The best thing is just to get on with writing the next story or novel.
If you can only get started.
I would like to give a big apology to all of my loyal, regular readers. Both of you!
I’m sorry I haven’t updated this site much in recent months. I have been extremely busy working on finalising my Master of Arts Creative Writing thesis paper. This paper consisted of a 40,000 word novel for children (ages 10-12) and a 10,000 word exegesis essay on the writing of the novel.
Last week I finally finished all the last minute editing and proofreading. I had it professionally printed (3 copies) and bound. With a sense of relief I handed it up to my supervising lecturer who organised to have it sent off to two examiners. Now I have a 6-8 week wait to find out if I’ve passed my degree. I am quietly confident of passing because all three of my supervisors approved the final draft, noting that it had improved vastly from earlier drafts.
I found the rewriting phase both fascinating and frustrating. It was frustrating because right up to the final draft I was making changes. Considering it was the 17th draft that I submitted, that’s an amazing amount of rewriting. On the flip side, however, it was fascinating to observe the effect of all those changes. Towards the end of the process I read the whole manuscript aloud several times. Despite being too close to the story, even I could tell how much it had improved in the final stages. Other readers were very positive in their feedback concerning the changes.
One of the most significant changes I made after the 6th draft was to totally rewrite the whole novel, changing it from the third to the first person. This was more difficult than I first imagined because remnants of the earlier third person persisted for several drafts. Eventually all was ironed out and the story is much stronger for the change. Being inside the head of the protagonist is so much more immediate and intimate, perhaps even confronting at times. His unique voice comes over much stronger now.
Now that I’ve submitted it for marking I am going to give myself a few weeks break before preparing the manuscript for sending off to a publisher. I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted at present, so a short break – with lots of reading – should refresh and recharge the batteries.
I might even get to add a few more updates on this site in the meantime.