Wednesday, September 12, 2012

THE DEMON OF DAUNTING: Writing my 1st Novel

I did it! I finally did it!

 What am I talking about? Why, my novel of course. You see, as a predominant picture book writer I write in short bursts. It may take months to get a picture book “just right” but it only takes a few days to get the “bare bones” on paper. I like that. Within a few days, I have a manuscript in front of me. It is not a polished manuscript, but it is a manuscript nonetheless. Something I can work from. As someone who loves the revision process, this is my favorite part. I have lots of fun dissecting my work and making it better.

 But a novel is a whole different animal. It is like comparing a kitten to an elephant. A novel takes waaaay longer than a few days to pump out a first draft. Compared to my 500 word picture books, a 50,000 word novel is a huge undertaking and a daunting task. Here’s what I see in my mind when I sit down to write one.

As a writer, I write. I constantly have book ideas rolling around in my head. Many of them are too mature for the picture book scene. So I thought, why limit myself to just picture books? When an idea hits me hard and strong I have to run with it. As always, the story starts off fast and furious. I type like a madwoman in my attempt to get it on paper before I lose it. But with a novel, this goes on for days. And as I sit at my computer, that looming shadow grows bigger and bigger. I try to ignore it, but it hangs over me with dark claws and glowing eyes. At this point I recall that character Glum, from the old Gulliver’s Travels cartoon and I hear his mantra floating over me. “You’re never gonna make it!” Then the self-doubt takes over and I find myself avoiding the computer because, well, ITS SCARY!

 So I meet with my critique buddies. They remind me that I am not alone. They tell me to put on my big girl panties and confront my demons. I sit back down at my computer. My drawing of the big scary shadow sits over my desk to remind me that he is a figment of my imagination, and I type. And I type. And I type. Sometimes, without thinking, I glance up at the Demon of Daunting and a shiver runs through me, but as the word count grows the monster gets smaller and smaller and smaller . I finally type the last word and POOF! The demon is gone!

 Hooray! First draft!

 Then I let it stew a while. I let all the flavors mesh with the characters and the plot. Then, because I am a picture book writer and I write short and to the point, I go back in and add my meat and potatoes to the mixture. This is my favorite part. Like a puzzle I go through it and look for inconsistencies. I add new ideas. I flesh out my characters and wrap up all the storylines until the whole thing feels like it has come full circle.

 Hooray! Second draft!

 Now this is the draft I’m willing to share. Is it finished? Of course not! When is a book ever finished? Right up to the time it is printed, changes can still take place. But for my novel, the Bones and the flesh are here and if I’ve done my job right, only cosmetics are left.

 After a round with my critique group I am ready to tackle draft number three. Nothing major, but changes definitely have to be made. I’m excited. I’ve accomplished something. I CAN write a novel. I beat the Demon of Daunting and survived to write again. So I do. As the first paragraphs of my new novel appear on the blank page, the demon arrives. He takes his usual spot to loom over me, but this time I’m ready for him and he isn’t half as scary. Bring it on!


  1. Niki,

    Wonderful news! Not only a first draft, but a second, and passing on to others for another round. Wow girl! I'm so happy for you. Could you post a few tips for the rest of us who still have our novels in our heads?

  2. Congrats! Such an accomplishment!

    For me, the Demon is impatience. I kind of love the big unfolding of the story but I do find it hard to wait. I too, really want that first draft out so I can begin the fun stuff.

  3. HOORAY, Niki! I love the "demon of daunting" picture. That's how I felt before I begin and still feel many times as I continue on. But have recently discovered that writing a first novel is really about learning how to write a novel. Has helped me tremendously to think like that.

  4. Linda, The best advice is advice given by children's book guru Jane Yolen: BUTT IN CHAIR!

  5. Joyce, I agree. The learning process never ends. No matter how good you are at something, there is always more to learn. My Grandmother used to say that you needed to learn something new every day to live a full life. She was right!

  6. CONGRATULATIONS!!! Now to find a publisher!


  7. So proud of you for finishing! I know it's "finished" finished... but it is finished. Know what I mean, jellybean? :) Revisions are part of the process, but we can still celebrate about actually typing up the words, THE END!


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