I wrote 5 pages yesterday. Only 5. I wanted to write 10. I needed to write 10 to meet my deadline, but I managed 5. On the plus side, I think they were pretty good pages. I still don’t feel comfortable with the heroine’s new name, but I’m getting closer. (I only changed it 3 times yesterday.) And the pages I wrote got me past a sticking point in the manuscript. But still, it was only 5 pages.
About midnight, I sat here in front of my computer staring at the work log I keep religiously (how to make sure you actually do write when you write full-time is a whole ‘nother subject.) Anyway, there I sat, staring at the work log and the little “5” in the “New Pages” column of the spreadsheet, and it occurred to me that one of the most deceptive things about novel writing is the size of the project. It’s one of the major things that keeps talented people from succeeding.
I mean, just think about it for a minute. Even the smallest book that qualifies as a “novel” requires a couple hundred pages of story.So there you are, this ordinary person, approaching the daunting task of writing a novel, knowing that you have to write 200 or 300 or 400 pages or more, and that every page has to mean something, has to impart new information to the reader and advance the story, and develop the plot . . .
The sheer volume of pages makes the task feel impossible, and the number of pages we’re humanly capable of producing in a single day makes it seem never-ending. How can I even put a dent in 400 pages if all I can produce is 1 page, 2 pages, or 5, or even 10 pages in a single day?
What if I get bored with the plot and/or the characters before I reach the end? It could happen. Before I finished my first novel, I was the absolute Queen of Unfinished Projects. Come to think of it, that could have been my Ya-Ya Sisterhood name–Queen Never Finishes Anything. I had half-crocheted afghans and half-stitched cross-stitches all over the place, not to mention all those other Projects-I-bought-the-stuff-for-but-never-actually-did-anything-about. (Yes, I still have yarn in my garage, some of it purchased more than 20 years ago, waiting for me to actually use it.)
The lessons we learn as we reach the other side of that first completed manuscript are invaluable. Even if all I can write in a day is one single page, that’s enough–as long as I add another page to it tomorrow, and another page the day after that. It’s consistency that’s the key to finishing any project, I think.
Even that half-finished afghan in my craft basket downstairs.