The Way of the Word

4. February 2010

Novel in Progress: Revenge of the Walking Dead

I looked at my January numbers yesterday and found out that I only wrote a bit over 5 000 words in January.

That’s not a lot. At least not on the surface of things. Basically, I had hoped to do 5 000 words a week.

So what happened?

One thing is that there were some personal things that kept me from working for about two weeks. Well, not entirely from working, I still did the paid work. But they kept me from doing unpaid, spec writing. (Spec writing being the type of writing you do when you don’t know if anyone will buy the manuscript when you’re done.)

The other thing is that I actually wrote a lot more than those 5 000 words. I wrote two or three times that amount.

The way I work is that I revise constantly. I don’t just hack out the first draft and fix things in revision when the novel is done. I can’t make myself do that.  Earlier this week, I wrote the start of a chapter three times. I deleted it twice and started from scratch before I realized what was wrong. So I went back, deleted a longer passage in a previous chapter, rewrote it, then returned to the chapter I was actually working on and, lo and behold, now I got it to work.

By the time I returned to that chapter, I actually had fewer words than I had had before. The revision had actually shortened it.

When I called it a night, the manuscript was about 600 words longer than it was when I had started. But they were good, useable words, not just chaff that I would need to fix in revision. Those 600 words were the result of writing, deleting and revising a lot of other material. I think that in total, I wrote at least twice those 600 words.

When I finish the manuscript, it will technically be the first draft. But because I constantly tinker with it while I progress, it’s actually closer to being the fourth or fifth. When I’m done with this draft, I will print it out and revise it once more. I need to do that for continuity and cohesion. In one of my first efforts at writing a novel, I had a character whose age ran from the mid-40 to the mid-50s, depending on which chapter you were reading.  The final revision will see me fix a lot such continuity errors. I’ll also fix phrasings where I feel I have a better way to put it. Then there will be one more revision when I apply the printout revision to the manuscript, and then I’ll be ready to look for a publisher.

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