I’ve written novels that pulled me relentlessly to the keyboard to write from waking until sleep. I’ve written novels for which I had to wrestle resistance to the ground before each reluctant session. I wish everything I wrote was more of the former. Alas, that’s not the case.
Every novel comes onto paper in its own way. No two novels are alike, and I had to write half a dozen before I understood. So far, it’s been a paradox. The stories that keep me writing, that wed me to the page, are the most satisfying to write. Word counts are high and the characters rush on as fast as I can write them. For others there’s resistance, no sense of flow, no pull. Word counts are sufficient, they just lack eagerness.
Oh yes, the paradox. It’s simply this: the stories that fall out of me need a lot of work after the draft is complete. The story is intact (usually) but the scenes are out of order, all my tics and bad habits are clearly present, and there’s usually a plot hole. The stories that require work to produce tend to be cleaner in the draft and require fewer additions during revision. You’d think I’d prefer the second scenario. Not so. I love the pull to the keyboard and the discovery of the story as it unfolds.
I’ve only written six novels. So far, it’s 50/50 on how they are written. I’d be interested to see how that percentage changes when I’ve written twenty or thirty. What I think about often is that I’d only have three novels if I didn’t have a daily writing practice. Habit wrote half of them. Ultimately there’s no time savings for one over the other after revisions. The difference is mostly perception and feeling.
The major difference between the two processes, I think, is whether I start warm with a fresh idea and develop as I write, or start cold with a story idea that I’ve developed and then set aside until I had time. I’m not totally sold on the theory because I sometimes get that magnetic pull after starting cold. But not always.
Most of us have experienced good writing days and bad writing days within a single draft, and can’t tell the difference in the prose when we’re done. Maybe this isn’t much different. It feels similar. Perhaps it’s just me, but somehow I don’t think I’m alone.
How often do novelists push words instead of being pulled by them? What’s normal? IS there a normal?