Six Stages to Writing a Novel
Posted February 2016
STAGE 1: EPIPHANY
Brilliance! This is the best idea I’ve ever had. The idea is so amazing this story is going to tell itself. I will write 10,000 words a day and in nine days I’ll be done. It will be witty but smart, insightful but not boring, a page-turner that is controversial but with universal appeal. This is it. My opus. Worthy of Pulitzer Prizes and red carpets. The Academy Awards! I need a dress. It needs to be sophisticated but intellectual, edgy but understated, maybe off the shoulders, maybe with a cape like a superhero. I need to go shopping. No, I need to write. Weeeee!
STAGE 2: DIVING IN
The energy is high, high, high, the fingers are flying across the keyboard and words are filling the screen. Ideas are pouring out and the juices are flowing. I work at a breakneck pace. I don’t sleep. I survive on chocolate and coffee. My husband no longer exists. I forget my children’s names. Genius is at work. Don’t interrupt. Can’t lose the mojo.
STAGE 3: THE CRASH
I suck. I am drowning in drivel—hundreds of pages of nonsensical, meandering storylines, aimless characters, armchair philosophy, and clichés. I haven’t showered. I have no more clean underwear. I need to return my dress. I haven’t spoken to another human being other than my characters in weeks and even they don’t like me.
STAGE 4: MUDDLING ON
The choice: Pretend I am a writer or admit to the farce and get a real job. Ha! At least I am now wearing clean underwear. Sure, all I’ve produced is a substantial pile of kindling for roasting S’mores, but my husband doesn’t know that. He has no idea how talentless I’ve become. After all, I told him we were going to the Academy Awards, so he is being very supportive. I wonder how long I can milk it before he starts to notice there is no book. I slog on at the pace of a slug, no longer in a rush, trudging forward as the days become weeks and the weeks turn into months, my husband politely asking how it is coming along and whether he should order his tuxedo.
STAGE 5: OBSESSION
My eyes are bloodshot and my butt has spread five inches. My wrists hurt and I can no longer form a coherent sentence. When someone talks to me, my vision glazes over and my mind wanders, lost in a world that exists only in my mind and on my computer. I am completely fixated on the story. Friends have stopped calling and my husband now pats me on the head like I am one of the pets. The story, the story, the story. An obsession. A compulsion. A sickness.