Stephen King writes his entire first draft in 3 months. He can fluff around for months before with the research and general procrastination, but once he starts on that first sentence the clock starts ticking.
For those of us who can take ten time that long (and longer) to write a novel, it is not obvious why (beyond fiscal and contractual reasons) an author would force themselves to do that if they didn’t have to. I am now starting to wonder if part of it is to do with the growth of your characters.
Even when I am not actually working on a novel the characters come and visit me. Snippets of story reveal themselves and play out, sometimes the same way, often differently, and each time they shape the characters slightly. If you are just thinking about it, not writing it down, you can miss these nuances that develop your characters.
Last weekend I read from start to finish the chapters I had written thus far for a novel I have decided to focus on for the rest of the year. Shockingly, I could see a lack of continuity in the behaviour of the characters. It didn’t help that I had written earlier chapters after later chapters to insert foreshadowing and do some proper introductions that were missing in the original first chapters.
Many of the chapters were written with huge gaps of writing time between them (sometimes well over a year). During those writing hiatuses I had continued to think about the story and grow the characters. So when I wrote my new first chapters, the characters were more developed and gave more of themselves than they did in the (now) fourth and fifth chapters.
If I had written the whole thing in three months this would not have been a problem. I would have watched them grow on the page and my readers could have watched them with me. If I had written the whole thing in three months when I first started writing it, it would have been a VERY different story, the characters would have ended up in different locations and the end would have been completely different, but that would have been the right story for the time I was writing it.
So I have tasked myself with fixing and finishing this novel in six months (Stephen King writes full time, so I figure I can double his timeframe). So let’s see where the characters go this time, and I’ll record the right story for them now.