Novel Process

I was watching a really interesting blab the other day by Ally Bishop and she and her co-hosts were talking about process and the concept of the ‘Shadow Novel’. She talked about this weeks ago but it’s really been on my mind in terms of The UnSeen Writing…that feels like it takes up all my time.

My Shadow Novel is all the writing I put into characters and things that happen off screen. “But April,” you might ask, “If it’s happening, shouldn’t you put it in?”
Nah. Not really. I have my current story start off when there is action, when my two main protagonists are meeting one another during a very active and busy time, a time when they need one another and resent the situation. Yet for me to fully understand a character, I have to know everything about them. And while it might be important for me to know how Character A realized that he liked a certain thing, it’s not really great for the pacing and story if we follow him around shopping. I might use one line too reference it later but I actually spent 2 days using my morning writing to figure out that aspect of his character.

Not everyone is like this; writing out stuff and then only using a few words to reference it might not be your style. Hell, I’m sure that there are plenty of writers who don’t have to have all those things laid out in so much detail; they seem so gifted in just writing the line with an image in their mind as the only reference. But that’s still part of the Shadow Novel, the unseen bits of the iceberg as it were.

Today, after saying I was going to do this for oh, weeks, I sat down with Scrivener and began to label out the ‘notecards’ of my project and realized that while I have 39,500 words written in my current project, less than 10k are actually in any shape of a useable draft with the other 3/4th of my current manuscript composing of character exploration, outlining, plot determination, false starts and unlinked scenes that I needed to get down even if I don’t end up connecting to them.

Guys, I feel so much better now that I’ve done this. Is it disheartening to realize that I still have so much to go? Not as much as it was to think that everything I was putting down was unuseable.

It’s a slow process. I write one hour a day most days with some extra time on the weekends. So, honestly, I remind myself that while this work feels slow now, it could have been done faster if I’d had more time to do it. But I don’t, so slow isn’t bad.

I’m still here, one step at a time. I’m still dragging through, one scene, whether it goes into the final draft or stays in the shadows. That’s my process: keep churning it out and don’t get angry if the words I’m mining are diamonds or rocks.


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