I'm closing in on 400 pages of the new novel, and I'm at a pivotal point in the creative process.
There comes a time, at least for me anyway, when I have to put the brakes on and do a full review.
You see, I write from the seat of my pants, laying down the tracks just ahead of the engine, so to speak. I don't plot a thing. But there comes a time when, in the journey, I have to stop and look back. If I don't then the journey would never end.
That's what I've been doing these past few days: reading the entire rough draft. All 390 pages. I don't edit a word. I don't change a single punctuation mark. Rather, I write notes about the story in the margins. I ask questions about things like character motivation ("Why would Hamish say that?"; I express ideas of how I could tweak a certain passage ("Syssa would say more about this here") etc.
This is an important point for me. I know that if I've gotten to this stage, then there is a light at the other end. It means I'm probably a few weeks away from finishing the first draft, and that it's all downhill from there. In a good way, that is.
Someone with a lot more experience than me once said that the process of writing the first draft was like an archaeological dig. You know something is hidden deep down, so you've got to start somewhere. You begin with the miner's pick.
You're probing, chipping away, burrowing through layers, looking for the good stuff underneath. It's a very clear analogy as far as I'm concerned. Each word I type is a swing of the pick until, at some point, I've reached the skeletal remains of ... something. I'm never sure what it is until after the first draft.
I move to the softer archaeological implements at that point, like a brush, because I don't want to destroy what I've unearthed so far with heavy tools.
That's where I'm at. I've got a really good picture of what I've excavated, I just need to take stock and plan a course of action.
I need to see how far I've come before proceeding, and that's a great place to be in.
At some point I expect to reveal, at least in small ways, what I have, but I'm not ready to do that yet.
In the meantime I'll wipe the sweat off my brow, take a break, and then get back to work on the next stage.