It’s January, and I haven’t given an update on my novel in a while. Friends have been asking about it, very kindly. Considering all the aspiring novelists out there who will never finish a manuscript, my friends seem to have placed a lot of faith in me. (That, or they are just very sweet.)

It took a while to get into the second draft. Printing off the first draft was really eye-opening; it took a long time to read, considering the pain of reading the bad scenes and marking everything that would need to be re-worked. I have gone through hundreds of post-it notes, drained a few highlighters, and have actually mounted a giant cork board in my library, to help with re-structuring and problem-solving. Even just getting to the start of the second draft took a couple months and a lot of mental effort.

Giving updates on it now feels strange. I feel like I have another plot twist, or another problem solved, every week. And how many times can you hear yourself say that you’ve just solved a big problem, or written an interesting twist, but not feel like you’ve gotten any closer to the end? What’s most surprising to me is how much longer it’s going to take me to finish this thing. I finished the first draft in September. I expected a second draft would just involve some polish, but it turns out my novel needed bigger structural changes, and I’m essentially rewriting it. So it’s going to be a while before I have something to share.

My biggest and most interesting observation so far on the writing process is that when I’m procrastinating, it’s not just a sign of laziness. When I am procrastinating, it’s a reliable sign that there is a bigger structural problem that needs to be dealt with. I can write two thousand words in a day easily, if the path forward is clear; but when something is out of place or needs to be ripped out and redone, I tend to avoid it. This month I lost several days on one such problem. On those days, I can sit down to write, and end up with zero words. But I’m getting better at recognizing that, and doing the painful work of solving the structural problems.

I wrote 23,104 words in the month of January, averaging about 745 words a day. I think that considering some recent improvements in process, I can reasonably aim for 1,000 words a day in February, so I’m hoping to be at about 52,000 words at the end of the next month. This novel business is taking so much longer than I thought it would, but it’s good to know that I could still have a second draft finished before spring comes around. And then in summer, if I’m lucky, I can spend afternoons lounging in the shade with my computer, making word choice and style decisions and finishing a manuscript for feedback.

This novel has been in progress for about 15 months so far. I’m feeling discouraged by how long it’s taken, but I’m also feeling very optimistic about the novel itself. It is by far the most work I’ve ever put into a single thing.  Even just finishing the first draft was a huge creative achievement. I’ve learned so much over the course of writing it, too, that even if this one doesn’t turn out great, the next one will. I can’t wait to share it with you once it’s finished.