Monday, February 05, 2018

The Seven Stages of Writing a Novel

It was Sybil's post the other day, talking about the stage we all know  - that crisis of confidence we get near the end of a book and suddenly start panicking about the approaching deadline when no ending appears to be in sight - that got me thinking about all the different stages on the way through - seven, I reckon.

1.  Inspiration.
This is the good bit.  This is the time when your head is teeming with ideas, so many that you can't write fast enough to get them on to the screen.  Your characters spring to life, the plot sweeps them along and you just know this is the best book you're ever going to write.

2. Deflation.
What Ian Rankin described as  the 'page 64' problem kicks in.  All those fantastic ideas that were going to fill a whole book have been worked through and it's still only, yes, page 64.  Now you have to find more ideas to take you through the next 235.  At least.

3.  Perspiration
This is what separates the writers from the people who think it must be lovely to write a book.  This is when you grit your teeth, sit at your desk and graft and graft until the whole thing starts to take shape in your hands. By way of reward, you do occasionally get spells when the story takes over and again your fingers are flying across the keys.  This is the addictive bit, the cruelly seductive charm of creative writing - cruel, because the next stage is

4. Trepidation
You pause to reread what you've written and suddenly you're not sure it's working as well as you had thought it was. Or at all.  Indeed, maybe you should never have started this book. You had other ideas at the time - why did you decide on this one? You're now frightened that you have wasted months - months! - of your life that you will never get back.

5. Desperation
And the deadline is approaching so you haven't time to scrap it and start over, but you have no idea how you're going to bring this wretched thing to any sort of conclusion, let alone the sort that leaves the reader immediately clicking on Amazon to find another one.   Putting a wet cloth round your head, you read it again and again till two in the morning - and then you discover the meaning of the phrase 'the inspiration born of desperation'. There are two or three things you see now that you can do that would help a bit - actually, quite a lot, and they're not even very radical.

You've cracked it!  There will be a book after all!  You're racing to the finish line, and everything is falling into place.  There!  And now you can type the beautiful words, 'The End.'  And maybe it isn't quite as amazing as it was in your mind before you actually started to write it, but still you know you've done a good job.

7. Consumption

Champagne, if you like, though personally, I find a really stiff gin and tonic hits the spot more precisely. And after a couple of those you'll forget that any minute now you're going to have to start another one.  Still, you've got a couple of brilliant ideas for it already...   


Irene Bennett Brown said...

Wonderful post, so true! I've gone through exactly these seven stages with every book I've written.

Sybil Johnson said...

Ah, so true. I'm still in the desperation phase at the moment. Looking forward to the next one if it ever comes!

Aline Templeton said...

Thank you, Irene. And good luck Sybil - I'm in the same position.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

What a brilliant summing up, Aline – although i think my deflation page is 34 and not 64 - ha ha! For me, the desperation stage is the worst, when you seem so close yet so far until that magic moment when inspiration strikes!

PS: Onwards, Sybil! You are so almost sipping your G&T ;)

Sybil Johnson said...

So ready to sip that G&T!

Rick Blechta said...

What an enjoyable post! Thanks.