The making of a novel, part 6—how writing is like parenting

Granted, I only have one child, but all of my friends with multiple kids say the same thing: the second is nothing like the first. In many cases, it seems, they’re the complete opposite.

Having finished one book and begun another, I’m tempted to say the same is true of writing. With Dell’s story, I knew I needed to do a lot of research to get the details right. But I didn’t want to be doing research; I wanted to write. So I started writing scenes in random order, working on the ones that didn’t require medical knowledge—just a solid feel for the characters and their emotions. After I put in the time to learn what I needed to know, I built the structure of the story around the treatment journey and fit the character scenes in where they made sense.

That seemed to work well for me. Only a few scenes couldn’t find a place in the narrative, and it made writing from the beginning go faster and more smoothly. So as I embarked on this next story, I figured I might as well approach it the same way. But my second novel, the little bugger, is nothing like the first.

Rae’s story doesn’t need the framework that Dell’s did, which is good on the one hand because it gives me more freedom, but bad on the other because I don’t have a structure to guide me along. I didn’t edit the last book as I went. But I’m about an eighth of the way into this one and I already feel the need to revise what I’ve got.

We’ll see what happens when I get to the third book. Maybe a pattern will emerge and one of these two will be the outlier. But I have a sneaking suspicion that—like kid #3—it will be its own unique blend of challenges and joys as well.

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