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80,000 words of Fun, Fun, Fun

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I promised I would blog about rough drafting, so here it is.

Here’s the thing about rough drafting and revising. I like revising. I’m good at revising. i know what I’m doing when I’m revising. I know exactly what to expect when I’m revising.

On the other hand, writing a rough draft is unpredictable, inefficient, and uncertain. I delete as much as I save. I go down wrong paths, write embarrassing stretches of prose just to see my word count jump before I delete it, and kill characters that I later have to resurrect when I realize there is no one to hold my main character’s hair while she pukes later (metaphorically speaking). I don’t think I’m very good at it and it is intensely frustrating.

And, unfortunately, it’s what I live for. Because in between all that uncertainty and general ectoplasmic horror, there are also stretches of writer’s highs — those thousands of words you write in an hour, your brain lost in the emotions and settings of your novel. Those scenes you write and you know right after you write them — no, right when you write them — that they’re just spot on. You just don’t get those while revising.

My love/ hate relationship is directly related to how far into the manuscript I am. Let me illustrate this point.

0-2,000 words: “The Frolicking Phase” My prose is genius. This idea is gold. Printz, here I come. You might as well sweep everything else off the endcaps at Barnes & Noble now, because they have a new name for them now: My Home. That is where this book will live.

2,001-10,000 words: “The Emo Phase” What was I thinking? I’m writing my own fanfiction. I would not know a timeline if it reached up and pinched my right butt cheek. How did I possibly think this plot could sustain 90,000 words of exploration? I don’t even know how my characters speak anymore. No, how anyone speaks. I have completely lost the ability to write dialog. In fact, I can’t speak myself. It is time to e-mail my agent and confess that the previous three books were flukes. I need to be taken out back and put out of my misery before my editor gets ahold of this directionless prose.

10,001-15,000 words: “The Slow Realization that You Did Indeed Write Crap Phase” You know, if I just pretend the first 10,000 words don’t exist, I think I might have something here. It won’t be genius, and it sure as heck still isn’t easy, and I’m sad about not getting a Printz or renaming all end-caps My Home, but at least my editor might eventually be able to look at this draft without staggering back from his desk, twitching and vomiting. Hey, look! I just wrote two scenes, and it didn’t even kill me!

15,001-18,000 words: “The HouseCleaning Phase” One of these days, I will have to show this to my critique partners, and if I send it out like this, they will have no idea what I am trying to do. Why? Because of the 10,000 words of crap that I started it with. But I love that intro. The Printz/ End Cap/ Genius . . . >DELETE<.

0-15,000 words: “The Rematch Phase” Wow, I feel a lot better now that I’ve rearranged and rewritten and hacked at those first 10,000 words, even if it means that I have an actually smaller wordcount than when I started. I think I might even have negative wordcount. But . . .this might be good.

15,001-18,000 words: “The First Epiphany Phase” I are a writer! I can do this fast! I love this – the angst, the passion, the sheer criminality of this character and the emo-city of this other one! I am having a WRITER HIGH!

18001-25,000 words: “The Trudge Phase” Still looking for another epiphany. Why do I do this to myself? I would’ve been a great lawyer. I like fighting with people. I can’t believe I have to show this to my critique partners. I can’t believe I have to show this to my agent. Farewell, mine credibility.

CRIT PARTNERS: “I’m kind of in love with it.”
ME: “Really!? I’M A GENIUS.”

25,001-35,000 words: “The Immersive Phase” Laundry does not exist. All that exists is Mercy Falls, Minnesota (ignore that I made it up) and the wolves in it (ignore that I made them up too).

35,001-45,000 words: “The Ittermittantly Brilliant Phase” WRITER HIGH! writer low. WRITER HIGH! writer low. WRITER HIGH!

45,001-60,000 words: “The Neverending Story Phase” I really ought to end this sometime. I mean, it is a young adult novel, not an encyclopedia. OMG. I am NOWHERE NEAR THE END OF THE PLOT.


60,001-70,000 words: “The Fraying Thread Phase” I shall read the beginning again, to admire my flawless prose and AGHAGAHGHAHGH! How could I forget that plot thread that I introduced on page 47!? I am now left with a plot hole big enough to push an end cap through. You know what my editor will do when he reads this? First he will laugh helplessly and then he will buy every red pen that Bic has ever made and he will laugh helplessly while telling me that I will be revising for the rest of my life.

70,001-75,000 words: “The Subsconscious Rules Phase” But I didn’t really forget that plot thread! Look how I subtly brought it up here and here without realizing it!? GOOD SUBCONSCIOUS. HAVE A COOKIE.

75,001-80,000 words: “The Sleepless Phase” I just want to get it done. I want to get it done I want to get it . . . it’s over. I can’t believe it’s over.


So, yep. That’s about it. It looks kind of psychotic written out like that. I would say that I’m not really psychotic, but right now I’m in the intermittantly brilliant phase of LINGER and I’m afraid psychotic is probably the best adjective for me right now, right after “caffeinated.”

Maggie Stiefvater
Hi, I'm Maggie Stiefvater

Professional novelist by day and artist by night. I live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I’m the author of the Books of Faerie (LAMENT and BALLAD); the bestselling SHIVER trilogy (SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER), and THE SCORPIO RACES.

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Copyright 2012