I thought that the 48th was going to be it (I got all the way to Chapter Four!) but then it turned out not to be it. All of this rewriting seems crazy now, but, in my opinion (and in my experience), a book’s not gonna work unless the first chapter works. For me, the first chapter contains the DNA of the entire book: the characters, the setting, the milieu, the conflicts, and, most importantly, the voice. You can’t go back into a novel and add in the voice. Unless you’ve got it crisp and clear in the first chapter, the rest of the book’s going to be limp. When I was writing the first draft of my sociopathic mom book (which has a very distinctive voice), the voice was literally the last thing that gelled. I’d written 70,000 words (in various drafts) and was back at page 1, trying to make it work and wondering what was missing. And then I had a key realization regarding the mom’s motivations, and I wrote a 900 word scene and it was all there. I remember re-reading that scene ten times before I went to sleep that night and reassuring myself that I’d finally found it.
After that point, I wrote the rest of the book (all 110,000 words) in fifteen days.
Before I can move on with the rest of this book, something like that has got to happen.
The way that I prevent myself from going crazy is that every night, I develop a new strategy for tomorrow. That way, there’s always hope. This time, I’m actually pretty excited. I’ve got a whole new tack.
But only time will tell…
As opposed to the last few times that I’ve talked about this, I’ve now actually sold a novel, so (hopefully) people won’t chime in with condescending comments about how I just need to turn off my internal editor.
Believe me, I do not have a very overactive internal editor. My internal editor is the same as the thing that makes me want to write. If I’m interested and compelled by something, then I have no problem writing onwards, despite its flaws. But if I’m not, then it’s a warning (to myself) that I need to step back and reevaluate.
You’ll see! You’ll all see!