The novella hit 98 pages today and I do believe that I am only a few chapters away from being done.
I’m happy about it. Like I’ve written previously, I’ve never finished anything this long before. I’ve certainly written this much, but never in such a sustained way and I’ve never actually put the period down at the end of it.
This time I went for it. I’ve got a beginning, middle, and (soon) I will have an end. I think it’s a first draft (which means it is very rough), but I think it is also a rather cohesive story.
In preparation for writing this thing, I read a ton of novellas. And I learned that the novella is a one way street. The novel allows for subplots and deviations and some lollygagging. The novella does not. It is a short story with more characters and a bigger plot to develop.
Now, I’m sure some of you are like, “Yeah. No shit. Thanks for nothing.”
I get that we know the general differences between a novella and a novel. However, reading one and writing one is a very different experience. I needed to keep myself strung to one character and to keep the point of view very tight. I needed to push the plot forward with nearly every chapter. The novella doesn’t allow for fat. It is a lean reading experience, no frills.
Overall, I think I have done that. I’ve kept the chapters (I think they’re chapters, but they kind of feel like section breaks) at around a thousand words each give or take. I wanted to make sure that the reader felt like they were paging through it quickly. It’s technically a mystery, so I wanted you to be meeting characters and learning things quickly. No fat. No lollygagging.
That said, I have a big obstacle coming and it isn’t finishing the thing.
It’s the editing.
I’ve never edited something this big. I’ve done a lot of editing on my stories, but we’re talking 20 pages tops. This is going to be over 100. It’s a big damn difference for me.
And the problem is that I’m not dealing with writing that I laid down over a couple weeks. I have been at this thing since July. So there are numerous nights of writing in this project.
I’ve come at the novella upset, inspired, sluggish, and excited. There are bound to long swaths of the thing that don’t make sense. I can’t even imagine the amount of grammar issues that came out of the nights where I was writing just to get the words down.
I have to deal with that behemoth myself. Now, I know that authors do this stuff all the time and it is a matter of learning. If I ever write a book, I’ll probably feel the same way but on a larger scale. Maybe I’ll even think that novellas were easy editing. But until then, I’m feeling like I’m about to get in over my head.
I do, however, have a plan. Technically, I have until November 15th to submit. AND I only have to submit the first thirty pages. So, here are my thoughts on how to tackle this thing in that amount of time efficiently and, most importantly, reasonably.
- The first revision is all mine.
- I don’t know how if it is any good. I don’t want the people I trust to read my work to see the first draft. The first revision is solely me. I want to see my mistakes and try to fix them. I want this to feel more polished before it goes onto step two.
- I see this term thrown around on Twitter and in podcasts. From my understanding, beta-readers are friends and family you ask to read the thing to tell you if it sucks or it rocks. I’m going to pass it to my best friend (who is a professional editor) and to my partner. They’ll let me know if I’m dealing with a stinker. It might hurt. But I need them to be honest.
- Second pass with reader feedback
- There’s no point in asking for feedback if you don’t take it. I want to comb through this thing one more time with their thoughts in mind and make sure it’s tight from all angles. Well. This step happens only if they feel like I have something good. But I think this is the biggest step. I have big concerns about continuity over a long piece. I need the little things I’m blind to pointed out and fixed.
- Refine the first 30 pages
- IF this all works out, then I have something that is relatively tight and maybe ready to be submitted. IF that is the case, then it is time to focus in on the first 30 pages. That’s what the press wants to see, that’s what needs to be as close to perfect as possible.
I don’t know if this is going to work. I don’t know if I’ll make the deadline. I sure as hell don’t know if they are going to even accept the damn thing if I make it to the deadline to submit. It’s so much unknown that it feels like a weight on me sometimes. But that’s fine.
Writing is a big unknown. And, even if I don’t have something, it was more important to finish a big piece and feel out that process. I’ve learned a lot and I may detail that soon. But, for now, I need to finish.