Why is writing a novel so hard?

Back in February, I wrote that I had a goal to write a 50,000 word draft of my next novel by March 31st. Well, I accomplished that much. I completed what I and others call a “vomit draft,” printed it out and put it in a binder. My intention – noble, sensible, misguided – was to let it sit for a week or so, then read it, see what I liked, and start working on the next draft.

It has sat fallow for a month. This is not to say I haven’t worked on the piece. I’ve done a lot more exploratory writing, experiments with characters, that sort of thing. But I haven’t made any progress, and I haven’t even looked at my vomit draft.

The truth is (deep breath) I’m afraid of it. I have no idea how the story ends. I mean, I know what happens at the end, but how to get there? PTHBBBT.

I can hear the sniggering from other writers, both in my circle and the few who stumbled upon this blog post. “A month – that’s nothing!” Yes, very true. It is also true that I went from concept to vomit draft in about 4 months, which seems like a startling pace to me. Speed isn’t everything. Writing needs to steep, and so on.

But it’s so removed from my experience writing Sternendach. People think I’m being boastful or sarcastic, but it’s true: writing that novel was easy, and made easier by writing it in a strict form. I only had to figure out what happened in each scene, and then write. And what’s more, I loved doing it. I woke up every day excited, even when I was stuck. True, true, I was living with some of the characters in it for almost a decade (ask me about my Batman fanfic) and I knew their voices and personalities and how all of them would die.

With this current piece, I am both impatient and paralyzed. I want to make more progress on it, but every time I turn to it, there’s this weight on my chest and I give up. There are so few rewards at this stage, if the work doesn’t feel like one itself. I’m crowded by “supposed-tos” and “shoulds,” which tell me that I’m feeling the wrong way about this. Just do the work! But what if you don’t think you know how?

So what do I do? I have a few options. The first is to do nothing. Not choosing is also a choice. Sometimes, maybe, it’s the right one.

I could trash the novel, but that seems silly. If I won’t read my draft, how do I know there aren’t nuggets of gold in it?

So: new writing goal. I am going to read my draft my May 15th. I am going to get my beloved red pen and underline anything that is good, or beautiful, or true. And just by putting a date on it, it feels good. I’m pretty good with deadlines.

In the meantime, I have stories to edit.

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