When I sit down to write it is usually one chapter per session. Sometimes it’s not quite a chapter but once started, I’ll finish it the next day or the day after that. It’s anywhere between 1500 and 5000 words long, which translates to between 6 and 20 print pages of a classical paperback format. And it feels real gooood to have another chapter in the box.
Working up the courage and motivation to start a new chapter is challenging. Even though I know what’s supposed to happen in it, it takes days (and sometimes even weeks) to put down the first word. My creative retreat is the shower. When the hot stream of water relaxes me, I am at my best. I’ve had pretty twisted ideas that way but mostly I am searching for a good way to start the chapter.
Once that’s settled, I sit down to write.
Mind you, all the careful planning of how to start and where to finish may easily go down the drain as I write. And it’s not so much my decision of how it turns out but that of the characters involved. It really feels that way! I would have a great plan of action laid out but as soon as, e.g., Liz, my main character, talks to Raoul, it might turn out entirely differently. And usually the flow of the story is better for it.
One writing session might take me anywhere from two to eight hours, depending on my time, creativity and determination.
Most people will advise you not to re-read and edit the first draft and just keep the momentum up for getting to the end. I don’t work that way. Going back the next day and smoothing out the flow of the chapter is something I can’t do without. And then I send it off to my cherished alpha-reader. She’s the best at giving me honest feedback. Sometimes she even manages to couch her searing critique in something that almost sounds encouraging. But, hey, her job isn’t to be nice to me but to help me improve my work.
I’m usually on edge before I haven’t read her feedback and can’t start a new chapter. Then, at odd hours, I get a long voice mail back to which I listen biting my nails and nodding. She’s usually dead on in her remarks, though. And that’s the point where I go back over the chapter and edit it. But not more than once. It is a first draft, after all, and it will most certainly change significantly until it is printed.
After this re-write, I am usually on a high, thinking I am the best writer on God’s planet. Of course, I know there are a couple of others that maybe are as good as I am (just kidding) but I permit myself to ride this wave. That’s what I draw upon for motivation, after all.
And then the cycle starts again. It’s been 22 times so far that I went through this. Seven more times and the first draft is finished!