The Stages of Drafting a Book

1) Asthmatic terror, as expressed through procrastination
So the time has come for you to start the next book. You can’t write it yet! Your house is dirty. You haven’t finished the Sudoku book you started. There are homeless ferrets somewhere in North America! (Why do you put it off when you love writing? Well, personally speaking, it’s due to fear of failure. How can this book ever measure up to the last one? What if it doesn’t? What if the first [insert number] books were a fluke and you’ve lost your mojo?) Eventually, you fight through this morass of abject stage fright and boldly create a new file for your imminent work of breathtaking genius. Then, if you’re like me, you freeze at the sight of all that white space. Your brain seizes. Eventually, you struggle through this as well, and you begin to write, which brings you to stage two…

2) The Honeymoon Period
Once you’ve gotten past the rough patch, the old magic kicks in. Why were you so worried? This is awesome. This is natural. This is the BEST BOOK EVER. You type frantically, hour after hour. Your word count piles up. You walk around so gleefully lost in your own world that your spouse secretly wonders if you’re cheating. Once you clear up that misunderstanding, you write some more. Your characters are brilliant; your plot is air-tight. Every little word you write is magic; even the commas are little curls of love. This lasts until 30K or so. (Place in manuscript may vary according to length of finished project). Which sadly culminates in…

3) The Swampy Middle of Doom
Shortly after 30K, your momentum peters out. You start thinking this book is kind of boring. And what the hell are you supposed to do with these annoying people for 30K more words, before you can begin the downward arc to wrap things up? They just talk all the time, and the action scenes are wooden. Your plot has begun to bog down, and you can’t remember what the point of that thing on page 87 was anyway. Why didn’t you take better notes?! Jotting down a plot solution on a stained Starbucks napkin really was not your best move. You despair of ever finishing this steaming pile of rubbish yet you press on, mostly because you have a deadline. (Maybe you can plead terminal illness? Except they always figure out that was bullshit when you don’t die. Damn.) Your hatred for this project now burns hotter than the fire of a thousand white hot suns. You limp along, positive nothing has been so wretched since Gollum trailed that darn hobbit while moaning piteously, “My precioussss.” Somehow you proceed into…

4) End, glorious end
Around 60K or so, you have become inured to your own crapulence. You are a dogged marvel of persistence in the face of mediocrity. You write on, day after day. The magic is gone, but you will do your duty, dammit! But somehow, around 70K, things start not to seem so bad. This line… it’s rather witty. And the hero isn’t a total waste of oxygen. He has a few compelling moments here and there. You smile for the first time in ten days as you write a scene. Why? Well, it’s not bad. And you’re almost to the end. You start gaining momentum again, start that race to the finish line, because you do love these characters, after all. You want to finish telling their story. You do, you do! And when you type the magical words that conclude their saga, few things have ever been so satisfying.

Congratulations, you’re a writer! Sadly, there’s no cure.

Posted in writing

10 Responses to The Stages of Drafting a Book

  1. Cheryl says:

    OMG soooooo true! Except you forgot one.

    3.5 Yeah, you know it sucks but you have to finish it. You start to feel a smidge better and that you might not be so horrible after all. And then you start all over at 3. Rinse and repeat until you finally slog your way to 4.

    So reblogging this. ;)

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  3. judith post says:

    Great blog! Caught the writer rhythm. Near the end of every middle, I think of a book that would be much more fun to write.

    • Ann Aguirre says:

      That’s the Shiny New Idea syndrome. If you fall prey to this siren call, it is very difficult to finish anything. Because ALL Shiny New Ideas have a Swampy Middle of Doom. It’s a trap! Get an axe!

  4. Yes!!!! This is exactly how I feel. Every. Time. LOL!

  5. Zakgirl says:

    Ugggh! It’s the, “there is no cure” that worries me most.

    Zak – the worrier

  6. Marjorie says:

    Thank you :)

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  8. This is brilliant. At least we’re all mired together. And when no one in RL understands us, including our cheating-suspicious spouses, at least we understand each other!

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