A discussion on Wattpad, this morning, got me thinking about the process of serializing As Long As She Lives and I realized that it has helped with two of the things I’ve found hardest about switching from writing screenplays to novels:
Because there really are no rules for where to put chapter breaks in a novel (unlike in film and TV, and even comic books), I really struggled with working out where I wanted to put mine. Serializing my novel, as I write it, has helped me to get a sense of my novel as a presentation of a story, instead of seeing it as one, overwhelming lump which needs to be broken up. I feel like I’ve started to get the hang of making sure I end my chapter when my audience has a reason to want to read the next one – without always leaving them at an actual cliff hanger (though there are plenty of those, too!)
2) Exposing my work and still liking it (the work, that is, not the exposure).
I’ve always found that sharing my work is kind of like having people over to your house: every dust bunny I missed when I was cleaning leaps out and shames me. I’m not a person who likes to put themselves out there -challenging that is one of the reasons I keep a blog. At high school and Uni I loved to be in the theatre, but I was always back stage, or safe in the body of the choir.
The thing about screenplays, is that they aren’t really products for display, they are working documents to be seen by agents, producers, directors and actors (assuming your pages are the ones they get.) If a screenplay is successful, the most the public will see is a finished film which is a collaborative work.
The thing about a novel is that the words ARE the finished product – and the words are all mine. The thought of my words being read by more than a few people was terrifying to me, for a long time, but I have a desire to entertain people with my stories, so I was going to have to get over that. I thought that posting online would help, but I didn’t realize how it would help.
When I started posting online, I started polishing my chapters (so that I could bear exposing them at all) and my husband commented that he had never seen my polished prose (my feature length screenplay had been professionally edited). Only then did it occur to me that I hadn’t seen my polished prose, either. A novel takes a long time to write at all, let alone well, and you just don’t get to that polishing stage as often as a short story writer would. I then realized that I’d been judging my work based on my un-polished, seemingly never-ending draft work – and that was just plain idiotic!
Everyone knows first (and second and third) drafts need to be edited – I knew it – and yet, because I was waiting till I’d finished a draft to do that editing, I had no sense of how much better my writing could be. Now, I find I am looking at my work with a level of confidence I didn’t have, before – not because the online readers are liking it (though that is lovely) but because I have truly done my best with it (at this moment in time) and I can detach from it in a way I couldn’t when had that “of course, I still have to edit it” excuse. I can look at it more objectively, in the context of my reading, and the many and various published books I spent hours with as I turned them into audio books, and see that, while I’m not brilliant, I’m competent, at least.
Of course, this also means that I’m finally starting to relax and let myself write crappy new drafts because I’m not just hoping that I’ll be able to pick up all the problems and turn a bad draft into something better – I’ve proven to myself that I can do it.
I guess I should get back to doing that, then. On with Chapter 20!