Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Knitting with Fog

I’ve finally reached the last chapter of my ‘work in progress’. People often ask how long it takes me to write a novel, and I usually say, ‘About six months’. This was a total guess as I’d never actually ‘timed’ myself.

With this one, however, I made a note when I started it - November 30th, 2012. I also made a note of when I began each chapter. It soon became very apparent I was writing (on average) one chapter per week, which actually fits with my general estimate of writing about 500 words a day (again an average).

Until I got to Chapter 22 on April 22nd. Since then, it’s been like knitting with fog. I knew where I wanted to get to at the end. I just didn’t know how to get there!

I had two attempts at writing Chapters 23 and 24, each of which took me almost two weeks to write. Chapter 25 was supposed to be the last one. I started it on May 19th, and I thought I would actually reach my (self-imposed) deadline of finishing the novel by the end of May i.e. 6 months since I started it.

Wrong! By May 31st, I hadn’t finished the chapter, and – even more significantly – I realised I couldn’t get to my planned ending in that chapter anyway. The characters were demanding another chapter, but they weren’t helping me to sort everything out!

Every sentence has been a struggle. My friend Gilli calls it ‘carving granite with a teaspoon’ but that implies something solid you can scrape. In this case, it’s all been far more nebulous –hence the fog analogy.

I’m sure I’ve felt like this with my other novels, but in a way, it’s akin to producing a baby. Once the babe is born, you forget all the discomfort and pain you went through. If we didn’t, we’d never have more than one child! I guess the same can be said for producing a novel.

How do you cope when it seems like every sentence, even every word, is a struggle to produce?


  1. I think the important thing is to keep going through the fog. Somewhere out there is a lighthouse guiding us to a safe harbor (happy ending).

    I've never actually timed writing an entire story either. I might have to think about that for next time.

  2. I did keep going, Debra - but it's been (and still is!) hard work!

  3. I love your analogy, although not the difficulty you had writing. Another one is a mirage. I can see where I think I need to go, but when I get there, the words need disappear and the plot that I think I've created no longer works. Glad you finished the book!

  4. Haven't finished yet, Jen! I'm still knitting! And yes, it's a bummer when you find your plot point doesn't actually work when you come to write it. Been there, done that!

  5. in my two WIP's (still in editing stage) the endings wrote themselves. I have much more trouble in the beginning--where I start with too much backstory.
    I feel you pain, Paula, but Debra is right. Pushing through works.