I never really know when I’ve completed a novel. And I guess the answer to that is once it’s published and on the shelves of bookstores. However, I completed phase one and phase two and phase three of my fifth novel, Enter 5-D (modern telling of Orpheus and Eurydice), and I have entered the beta reader zone…
Although this feels like the next to last leg of a journey, my favorite part of the journey comes when an idea for a novel enters my thoughts. It’s what Joseph Campbell would refer to the hero (in this case, the author), responding to a quest that last several months to several years, depending on the author.
I carried a heavier burden with my fifth novel in that I had memories of past mistakes weighing me down. I guess I can also see that knowledge as lightening my burden which allowed me to organize the timeline of the plots (multiple), create enough detail of the characters and setting: as well as, work out the structure ahead of time. However, I’m yet to find the right genre to squeeze this novel and I’ve used the term genre-bender. Agents don’t like this, and publishers like it even less. Bookstores and libraries need to know where to shelve the book for best results. As a writer I have never liked categories, but I understand marketing and publicity too.
My second favorite part of the journey is spending time with my characters. I immerse myself completely in their worlds during and after my writing process. I research the details of their worlds and dive into their head and heart spaces. I also find pieces of my personality in each character–even the antagonists who I sometimes relate to that borders on dangerous projections. Although I’m half joking.
My 5th novel doesn’t just coalesce everything I learned from writing my other four novels, but gleans from astrology, sound healing, music history, and my childhood love of Greco-Roman myths. Then when I was in my twenties I related to Persephone, who I include in my novel, as a powerful Divine Women character. The overall theme of the novel is that by delving into our own darkness (subconscious), we gain power and liberation. Power comes from the inner and not the outer world.
I’ve now entered the beta reader stage and I’m still cleaning up the manuscript. I don’t have a practice of complete rewrites, meaning I never toss the first draft and start from a blank page. I actually, go back and edit the previous chapter each day before writing the next chapter. Then I keep notes of the timeline, eye and hair colors of the characters, but I can still make mistakes due to forgetfulness. After all, this novel is a 300+ page journey that lasted over six months, and then I moved several times in the process of completing the final chapters and epilogue.
I believe that if an author doesn’t reinvent the wheel with each of their novels, then the process becomes easier along the way–especially if the author develops a template or formula. However, doubts, worries and fears still crop up as do potentially dramatic moments where the author deletes the file from the computer (modern version) or tosses the manuscript out the window. Never do this, by the way. You’ll regret it later.
And speaking of my novel, I have some cleaning up to do, so off I go.