It feels a bit odd to be planning an ongoing series of posts at this very early point in the blog’s development, but I’m hopeful that, somewhere out there, a few of you are like me and working on a novel, wanting to write a longer work one day, or just find writers and their process interesting.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a novelist. Growing up, they were some of my primary influences, people who shaped me into the person I am today. Writing and stories are powerful. That’s something we’ll talk about on Grove Guardian a lot.
But I wanted to do something special for this site too, which this will be the first of—my plan is to post incremental updates about the process of writing my first novel. I officially started it a week and a half ago, so we’re very much at the beginning stages at this point. I’ve been thinking about this particular novel for almost a year now, and I am so excited to be able to share it with the world.
How the Story Started
A little over one year ago, my husband and I started playing a D&D game just the two of us. It was a campaign that he wrote specifically for me and my character that we designed together. We called it Duchess and Dragons (a story for another time or that you can read about on our other blog, D&D Duet), and it has brought us so much joy, happiness, and incredible moments and memories together.
A month or so into playing, I started conceptualizing our one-on-one game as a novel and writing scenes from our characters’ futures. This went on for several weeks until I began further developing backstories and then writing my own sessions for our games. We play every weekend, so the characters and narrative quickly developed differently than I had been imagining in that first month or so.
I will quickly add, though, that those drafts weren’t totally wasted. They changed how I understood my character and her companions, where they were headed, who they were and could be.
But other things in our life picked up around then as well. In the fall of 2018, I took my PhD comprehensive exams, which was incredibly stressful and time consuming. Following that, I had a dissertation proposal to complete (it’s almost done!), a copyediting project, and a textbook that I was writing for the students at my university.
So it wasn’t really until 2019 that it seemed like I would be able to take on a project like setting out to write a novel. I finally wrapped up some of the larger projects a couple weeks ago and so, at the end of that week, got to officially sit down and write the first 1500 words that had been waiting at my fingertips for months.
It was such a relief!
I wish I could tell you that the next two days proceeded perfectly with drafting, but that of course didn’t happen. My plan had been to write 1500 words every day and finish the novel around the end of April. So I did well for day one but then not so great for two and three.
Micro-Goals to the Rescue
I’ve been studying goal-setting and organization for taking on large projects, and a lot of the advice suggests breaking the big goals down into micro-goals.
So when we’re looking at a fantasy novel, the aim is for between 100,000 and 115,000 words. I really want to write this novel, and I have several planned in a series, but taking on a whole novel still feels overwhelming since I’ve never done it before. But I applied the micro-goals idea and looked ahead to when I would like to be finished with the draft, and decided on the end of May, so about twelve weeks from now. Dividing the weeks by the word count and then the smaller word count by seven, for each day, came out to 1333 words per day, which I can manage in an hour or two.
So that will be my plan over the next several weeks, to find an hour each day to sit and write and develop this novel.
I’m not worrying much at this point about how to self-publish or the various forms and platforms that I will need to be able to use. Some of the advice that I’ve read by famous novelists suggests that you don’t do any editing or revision until you hit the 40,000 to 50,000 word mark, because you don’t really know where you’re headed till then. But otherwise, don’t show it to anyone, and keep typing away till you have about half of it.
I hit the 8,333 word count goal for my first week, which was really exciting! Eleven weeks to go!
Thank you for joining me in this journey. I hope, if you’re working on something similar, that it’s encouraging to know you’re not alone! I’ll be sharing resources and ideas along the way, so please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to know more about!