Tomorrow, I get my Mac. I have to say that there is something about starting a new novel (even though I have a hundred pages done already) on a new machine that is so hopeful, and so wonderful. We all use every trick we can to get immersed in the long process of writing a novel, and I've decided that for me, there are stages to the process.
1. Stage one is the honeymoon stage. I have a premise that I am absolutely and totally obsessed with, characters I love, a first chapter that works (and this first chapter is my life support. I will cling to it when the novel gets rocky.
2. Stage two is disaster. I'm in the middle of the novel and I have written too much to junk it (plus there is that first chapter) but I have no idea what I am doing. The plot seems boring or nonexistent, the characters are cartoons, and the writing is slightly better than an 8th grader in a remedial class. Make that an 8th grader who doesn't read.
3. Stage three is panic. The novel is done and it makes no sense. I wail to Jeff that my career is over and he always grins and says, "Oh, must be going well then." I am mortified to call my agent and editor and I think seriously about how nice it might be to go to dental school instead, to laugh at this little stage in my life when I actually thought I could be a novelist.
4. Stage four is after ten more drafts when suddenly I realize the theme. I see what I have been writing about, which is generally nothing like what I started out on. I feel like I've run an 800 mile marathon, and gradually as I reach the finish line, I see a new idea forming for a new novel and the whole cycle begins again.
5. But wait there is another stage--the publishing stage. Many writers think publication will change your life. Ha ha ho. If you are lucky, you get reviews and good and bad ones, too. You may shake your head at the good ones (Am I really the next Hemingway? Last time I looked I didn't write about gruff men who like to hunt and I certainly don't write in chopped sentences) and weep bitter tears over the bad..("the tiresome Leavitt..."). In the space of one day, I got a full page rave in the Washington Post and then a full page pan in another paper (I'm still too wounded to mention the name), and the pan loathed everything the rave had adored. So who is right?
Many writers don't read their reviews. Many read to see if there are suggestions on how they can be better writers. Many read just for an ego boost. I always try to see if there are valid points where I can grow as a writer, and I admit, when I am in stage 2,3,4, I will pull out my good reviews and reread them to give myself courage to continue.
There is media--radio and TV--and then finally, it dies down and there is the bliss of you, the blank page, and a story you are obsessed to tell. (And hopefully a Mac to write it on!)