Before I committed myself to writing and became part of that world, I had no idea what was involved in constructing a novel. I assumed the narrative flowed easily from the writer’s pen to paper (and in those days, a lot of writing was done with a pen or pencil, though typewriters also were used). The finished product looked so pristine that I couldn’t imagine it ever being anything but perfect. Not only did narratives read as if they had come fully formed from Zeus himself, but they also were error free.
Ha Ha Ha!
Now that my fourth novel is almost ready to find its place on bookshelves everywhere, I have a more realistic picture of what’s involved, and it’s a great illustration of publishing sleight of hand. What appears easy to a reader is anything but for the writer and her editors.
If you are the kind of person who continued believing in Santa Claus after your parents said he didn’t exist, you may not want to read on. I hate to disillusion anyone! But the only thing magical about creating fiction is what takes place between pen and paper—the imagination. Without it, our work would languish. Otherwise, the process is messy and, largely, trial and error.
For my novel Curva Peligrosa, I spent many years learning about my characters as they revealed themselves to me and discovering their stories. I’m not the kind of writer who outlines a plot in advance and then proceeds to write. Some can do this successfully. I can’t. I like surprises as a reader and as a writer. Planning in advance would eliminate much of the fun for me of inventing the novel’s world.
Once I discovered Curva’s center of gravity, I was able to get close enough to its finished form that I could ask fellow writers to read and comment on its chapters, giving me a sense of what was working and what wasn’t. When I felt I had a complete draft, I asked a trusted published colleague to critique it. Her feedback started me off on numerous rounds of revisions that included two professional editors I hired before I submitted the manuscript to Regal House Publishing and the publisher sent me a contract.
But that was only the beginning of several more rounds of content revising and close line editing. Before it was ready for publication, it went through yet another proofreading of the text, and I reviewed it again after my publisher had also reread the manuscript.
I don’t mean to discourage any beginning writers, but you should have a realistic picture of what’s involved in giving birth to a novel, especially if you have literary ambitions and aren’t just writing pot-boilers. No, Virginia, there isn’t a Santa Claus, but something magical can happen in writing a well-constructed novel—the satisfaction of creating a new world.
4 thoughts on “Do novelist’s books really come fully formed?”
How true. How true. How true. You hit the nail squarely on the head. It gives me wonder why we keep at it!
I know! Thanks for your comment, Marlene.
I write non-literary fiction, but I also write in fragments- little scenes or character moments- and then stitch them later into a plot when I find it.
Sounds great! Thanks for the visit.