Writing a Novel: Which Way This Time?

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: July 31, 2012
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I just counted.

For a work-in-progress close to my heart (I call it My Book 2), I have over 160,000 words written. These are scenes in no particular order, written as I noodled around in the world of that story. Concomitantly I was writing scenes for other books, catching and running with whatever ideas occurred to me.

One day My Book 2 will occupy center stage in my writing life, and I will revisit all I have written in the past. I already know I won’t use all the scenes I’ve written. Rather, first establishing even more clearly in my mind the road these scenes built, I will unroll the narrative I now know I intend. Some of the scenes I have will be used, others will go. Some will serve as starting points for passages yet necessary to fill in the story.

I look forward to that process—or rather, to finally bringing forth that long-desired novel. Perhaps there were easier ways to have gone about writing My Book 2. But this is how I needed to write it at the time the idea first sang into my mind and I chose to follow its song.

 

My current work-in-progress is a historical middle-grade novel. For its sake I set aside all My Books (there are several), and I am going about writing it as differently as can be.

 

A couple of years ago I wrote an entire first draft, relatively fast, and, using an outline, entirely in order. The Scrivas as a whole never saw that version. I meant to do another pass-through before giving it to them, aware of much I could fix that I didn’t want to waste their time with. Scriva Nicole, though, was curious to read even that very rough first draft and I gave her the manuscript. With her excellent editorial eye, Nicole noted that in fact my novel was several novels in one: which one did I want to write?

 

I opted to develop the part of the story I most deeply resonated with. That is the novel I am working on now (and, if you’re wondering, what I won the work-in-progress Oregon Literary Fellowship for). The section I wrote so far of this brand-new version is also written entirely in chronological order. I felt I needed the discipline of plowing through the difficult patches in order to have a narrative that is cohesive already, rather than, like Aesop’s thoughtless grasshopper, merely jumping from easy scene to easy scene. So far, I am glad about how I chose to go about it, even though at times I am eager to get to later scenes that I see especially clearly or that have the deepest emotional resonance for me.

 

Right now I am doing field research to flesh out and nail down historical and geographical facts for my story. Once this time is over, I expect to make a couple of detours in my writing. A stop to organize the new information I collected. Likely contacting more experts to verify historical questions that are still unclear. Rewriting bits of the story, correcting them to fit newly-learned facts. And I’ve realized I’ll need to shift gears in places—I hope not grinding them too much—as I rethink parts of my plot so that they better mesh with what I’ve lately learned about the actual sequence of historical events.

 

Once these practical matters are sorted out, I will see how I will proceed with the writing. I continue to like the idea of writing my novel in chronological order, to know that what is written is more or less finished (for that draft, at least). I’ve thought, though, that it may help to write some later-along scenes ahead of time, to see more clearly where I’m heading, to make sure all my needed characters are introduced into the story early enough, etc. We’ll see.

 

So how are you going about writing your current work-in-progress—or how do you think you may write the novel you are thinking of starting?

 

-Sabina I. Rascol
www.sabinairascol.com

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