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Thu 30
Nov
2006

Exceptional

Writing Okay, look, I’m trying to keep low-key about this. I don’t want to make it into a whole deal. But I just finished the first draft of my new book, and OH MY GOD I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

I’ve been keeping my mouth shut about this, because from experience I know the moment I say, “This book I’m working on is going quite well,” that’s the first moment of a week of black, empty wordlessness. You just can’t tempt the gods like that. So I have been very good. I haven’t said anything to anybody, even though I have desperately wanted to grab someone and yell, “It’s the best book ever! It’s the best book ever!

Now I should confess that I often become overly enamored with my own books while I’m writing them. It’s a good thing, because if I saw them objectively, these staggering, newborn first drafts, I’d probably be so appalled that I wouldn’t be able to keep working on them. Blind love at this point is a prerequisite.

And next, I’m sure I’m going to read this draft and discover the myriad ways in which it’s not as wonderful as I thought. But that’s also a good thing: just as I can’t write if I’m in a critical frame of mind, I can’t edit unless I am. So I need to change modes. I need to give it some tough love.

But before I do, I’m just going to say it: this has been the best writing experience of my life.

I did two things differently this time. First, I had a daily maximum word limit. I probably broke this more times than I honored it, but still, I think it was helpful. It was good to feel a little naughty when I wrote 800 words in a day. And it was good to be able to leave it at 200 words when the scene needed more thought, rather than feeling like I should push on with whatever I had at the time.

The second thing I did differently was refuse to plot. Well, I’ve always done that; this time I actively tried to destroy my own plotting. Whenever I realized I’d figured out what was going to happen next, I changed my mind. My goal was to avoid any kind of cruise mode, where I feel that the story is ticking along nicely and I don’t want to screw anything up, so I just let things play out. This time I deliberately kept messing things up. Sometimes that meant I spent most of my writing time looking out the window trying to figure out what would happen instead. And by the time I got to the ending, all I knew was that it couldn’t possibly be what I’d originally imagined.

I’m sure this helped my characters, because I constantly looked to them for the next step instead of trying to nudge them down my pre-determined path. And although I have a bunch of stuff I need to go back and insert to make the stuff I only thought up later work, I think the plot that grew out of this chaos is actually pretty good.

But most of all: oh man, it was such cool fun. I’ve had the best time.

(Note: I know somebody’s going to ask about timelines, so: at a guess, I’ll be ready to show this to my editor in maybe 6-12 months. If he decides he wants to publish it, then add about 12 months before it would appear on the shelves. I know, I know. Sorry.)