By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy
There's a lot of advice and support on how first drafts are supposed to be messy. It's just a brain dump onto the page, and after we get the story down we can figure out how to make it "perfect."
I wholeheartedly agree with that, but just because we've gotten one draft done, doesn't mean we can perfect it in a single round of edits. Most drafts take several passed before they're ready, and trying to be "perfect" while you're still figuring out how a story works puts undue pressure on a writer.
Truth is, a novel will take as many drafts as it needs. For some novels (and writers) that might be one, for others it might be twenty. No drafting process goes exactly the same every time, and it's unrealistic (and unfair) for us to think so.
If you're faced with a novel that needs multiple drafts to get right, don't feel bad about it, or feel like you've failed in some way. You haven't. Some novels just take more time than others.
I like to call these novels late bloomers.
They often start out ugly, stumble along and can't really figure out who they are or where they fit. They make us doubt their worth, we try to change them or force them to fit what we think they ought to be. Then one day, the right pieces fall into place and everything works. The novel becomes beautiful, rich and vibrant, and everything we always knew it could be.
How can you tell if you have a late bloomer novel?
You love the idea, and you refuse to give up on it just because something isn't working yet.
A late bloomer novel resonate with you on a deep level. It's often the book of your heart and you know if you can just get it done right, it will be an amazing book. Trust that instinct.
You have a nagging suspicion you're still missing something important about the story.
Odds are you're right, and your subconscious is working like mad to figure out what. Sometimes you need to step back and let a manuscript sit for a while until you find that missing piece that makes the novel work.
You sometimes want to set it on fire, but you still go back and work on it after that urge has passed.
You hate it. You love it. It makes you cry. But you can't shake it and you refuse to give up on it.
You're trying to force it to be what you think it is vs what it actually is.
Some late blooming novels know exactly what they want to be if we'd only listen. Maybe you don't think you can write in that genre or for that age group, or maybe you always thought it was about X character instead of Y character, but something you don't want to let go of is what's holding the novel back. Embrace the core of that story and see where it leads you.
If you truly feel a novel is worth and the pain and frustration, you might have a late bloomer that's worth that pain and frustration. Believe in yourself, believe in the story, and enjoy the beauty when it's finally ready for the sun.
Do you have (or have written) a late blooming novel?
Looking for more tips on revising or planning your novel? Check out my book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions!
Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She is also a contributor at Pub(lishing) Crawl, and Writers in the Storm.