I’m starting to understand how it can take five years to write a novel…

illness-01Ear (or maybe sinus?) infection continues apace. Went to the doctor. He prescribed antibiotics but said he didn’t expect them to work, and he was right. It’s funny how often people are like, “Have you gone to the doctor?”

Doctors aren’t magic. There are lots of things they can’t cure. One of those things is a viral sinus infection. But I did go to the doctor. The doctor has been went to.

Anyway, I am still in pretty good spirits, since Ibuprofen seems to lessen the pain drastically.

The major disruption to my life is the lack of sleep. While I’m asleep, the ibuprofen wears off, and after about six hours, I wake up with an earache. So I am more tired than I’d like to be.

Revision continues apace.

You know, I’ve often wondered how it was possible for a writer to spend five or ten years working on a novel, but I feel like I’m beginning to understand. In addition to my line edits, my editor sent me a six page letter about how to revise one relationship in the book (the BFFL relationship, obv), and I’ve spent the last five days carefully going through and massaging these scenes so that the relationship makes more sense.

And as I was doing these revisions, I thought, “Wow, this relationship is really important. It’s a crucial part of the book! Look at how many emotions are coming out here!”

But the truth is…it’s not actually that important. It’s a subplot that takes up probably less than 10% of the pages in the book. And yet it’s occupied not only the last five days, but also a significant amount of revision and drafting time.

And every part of the book is like that. Everything can benefit from care and attention. And that’s even after the shape of the book has already been determined. What about before then? What about the point when things are still in flux? When characters can be added or subtracted or changed dramatically? And then, after all of that, what about the words themselves? Those can always benefit from tinkering.

But when you tinker on the word level, you introduce new possibilities. And then those possibilities need to be chased through the text and brought to ground.

It’s mind-boggling. There are so many possible things to change. The novel offers unlimited scope for revision.

And that doesn’t even take into account the initial drafting. For many authors that alone can take years. In fact, sometimes it takes me a long time. Not the drafting itself, but all the false starts and wrong turns and initial misconceptions. Anyway, when you add that all up, five years starts to look very possible.