They say the first draft of the novel is maybe a quarter of the work. ‘They’ are right. That first draft – in a rush of energy and ideas – seems a millions years ago (actually eight months). Now is the hard slog of the re-write. And where, during the first draft, every word was a word won, in the re-write, the delete key ends up getting more use than the letters, so that whole chunks of text disappear, and despite frantic typing, the overall word count stays much the same, or even goes down. Yes, I know I should be heartened by quality over quantity, but since quality is so much harder to measure, and since one’s eye cannot help but fall to that word count in the bottom right hand corner, I fear for my progress.
The word count is a double-edged sword alright. Can be a great motivator (my favourite game when blocked: set the stop watch. You have 30 mins. Write as much as you can in that time. Stop. Count up the words. Try again – this time, beating the last total). Sometimes needs the back up of a graph (excel spreadsheet – fill in the daily totals – see your progress pictorially as a line or bar graph….). It’s the same principle as NaNoWriMo – when the uploading of the daily totals becomes a ritual.
But during the re-write, it’s no longer speed or quantity which is so important. It’s detail and depth. Precision and pace. And then the word count is your enemy. Perhaps the worst thing is knowing that when you’re on a roll, 4,000 words might flow from your fingers in a single day – and a lot of those words might even be decent ones because you’re so absorbed into the story that it just feels right. But for every day like that, there are many more where every paragraph seems an effort, each sentence clumsy and wide of the mark.
If anyone has any motivation strategies for those days, please let me know! 😉