On Writing Novels

I haven’t done any book reviews for a while because I’ve been too busy writing my latest novel Drawn, which is about half-way done right now. Writing a novel means that I lose track of time, that my house is a mess, that my kids are asking me at 7 p.m. what’s for dinner and I don’t have a clue. And this doesn’t just happen for a day or a few days. It happens for weeks.

If I wasn’t a mom and didn’t have other responsibilities, I’d probably go on crazy writing jags late into the night, foregoing any sort of food, except for maybe the junkiest of snacks. But we writers live in the real world, so we are forced to reconcile our other world with schedules and reality. It does work, but it does feel like a balancing act that I’ve never really perfected. The same thing goes for all those author appearances I’ve done. All those hours, days and weekends even, when I’ve had to abandon my family. I met a writer last fall who explained it really well, telling me that at first she always felt she had to make a pot roast or some other amazing dish ahead of time, before she could leave the house with a good conscience.

Well, dealing with reality is one aspect of writing I have to work out. Another aspect is plotting and structure. As I zoom ahead with this book, I continually find ideas and scenes that I need to plant into earlier sections. Thankfully, computers make this a breeze. Can you imagine the mess manuscripts used to be in before word processing? Or how many authors looked at their neatly typed pages and decided the new scenes weren’t THAT important, and gave them up? But we can edit with ease.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is how elastic a piece of writing really is. I didn’t always get this. When I first started out, every word felt so final. Every chapter, once completed, felt brittle and done. If I were to alter it, I thought the whole thing would shatter into meaningless fragments. Now a draft feels like skin that can shrink or stretch in incredible proportions. I’m constantly amazed how accommodating a chapter can be to additional thoughts and scenes, yet still hold together. 

Today I’m devoting to inserting two new chapters into the first third of what I’ve written. Then I’ll pick up at the end of what I’ve written and, with any luck, sprint to the end. I’m so glad I know what the final scene will be. I usually do, and it stands in the distance like a finish line I’m eager to cross. 

Stay tuned for updates and some sneak peaks!

3 thoughts on “On Writing Novels

  1. hi. my novel, Down to the Bone, was just released and you’re right. when one gets in “the zone,” creating powerful characters that leap off the pages, you loose all track of time.

  2. Hey Mayra,

    Losing all track of time is definitely a side effect of writing fiction. When I was writing “What I Meant…” my youngest was still in elementary school, and I can’t even tell you how many times I suddenly looked up and saw I was very close to being late getting her at the end of the day. Fortunately we live near the school, but I definitely looked ridiculous racing down the street, my writing glasses on my head and a blearly look in my eyes!

    BTW, serious congrats to you on your new novel! For everyone out there in blogland, Myra’s book “Down to the Bone” just came out at the end of Feb. through HarperTeen, so check it out.

    Keep writing!

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