March 4

A different kind of beast

I’m working on the second draft of my novel and I’m finding it…challenging. This is my first long-form story and it’s much different from the short story format. The first draft took a few months, but it went better than I expected. I created a rough outline of each chapter, a character list to keep track of everyone, and dove it. I think it helped that I looked at each chapter as sort of a short story. That allowed me to focus more on the chapters and not be overwhelmed by the overall scope of the novel.

I then let it sit for a while. I had read (and gotten feedback from) other writers who suggested taking a break between drafts. Helps to get some perspective. For me, it allowed me to come back to the story with fresher eyes. After staring at this thing for weeks and weeks I found that the words were beginning to blur, that I was starting to wander off into the weeds in certain parts. I worked on some other stuff for a few weeks and did a good job of putting the novel on the back burner for a while.

But it never really left my mind. I picked it back up last weekend and have been steadily working on the second draft. What I’ve found, however, is that I’m not moving as quickly as I was on the first draft. Now I’m polishing the text, fine-tuning the narrative. And that means I’ve been working on the first chapter for about seven days.

Is that normal? Then again, is anything normal when working on a creative project? All writers are different, have different styles, different processes. And really, I don’t think I’m taking too long to work on this. Hell, I had a writer on Twitter tell me they worked on their novel for seven years. With that in mind, I’m moving like a jack rabbit.

But back to my point…writing and rewriting a novel is so much different than a short story. Obviously, the word count is going to be slightly larger. That’s one of the hurdles I’m having to overcome. With shorts I write with an economy of words. I try to get in, tell my story, and get out, all within a handful of pages. I don’t spend much time on setting or back story. My focus is on the characters and the action, who they are and what they want. There’s no paragraph-long descriptions of their environment. There aren’t any detailed flashbacks explaining their motivation. Short stories are supposed to be concise.

With the novel, though, I’m having to fight my instincts to edit my words. This isn’t to say I shouldn’t be economical with my words, but I don’t have to cut things down quite as much. To me, a short story is like a quick walk around the block, whereas a novel is more like a leisurely stroll through the woods. Someone who reads a novel does so because they want to lay back and go on a long journey.

So I’m finding that I’m editing a section, but instead of cutting I’m adding, but I’m being selective. When my protagonist is introduced in his apartment, I originally had him rise, grab his stuff, and head out the door. After the second pass I have him rise, then look around his apartment so I can describe it. I’m using this as an opportunity to show his situation (poverty) without coming right out and saying, “he’s poor.” Showing instead of telling.

It’s an interesting experience, going from short story to novel, but I’m enjoying myself. I’ll continue to post updates on my progress, hopefully culminating in an actual book release. Some day.


Copyright 2021 Richard Bist. All rights reserved.

Posted 2019-03-04 by RB in category "Writing

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