How to Write a 600-Page Novel Without Losing Your Mind
How to Write a 600-Page Novel Without Losing Your Mind
Before sitting down to write a 600-page novel, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself what the hell is wrong with you. Then, scrub your brain with Pine-Sol and a Brillo pad because you’re going to need a clean brain before filling it with so many little nuances, characters, and plot twists you might as well shoot yourself now because if you miss something you’re going to have one hell of a time combing through the entire manuscript, trying to pluck out every mention of the lost twist. And finally, dive in and have at it because you’re in for one wild ride.
Obviously I’m joking-well, at least about the Pine-Sol and Brillo pad comments. But what is true is that writing a 600-page novel requires an attention to detail that could drive someone batty if you’re not on top of your game. I write through third person and multiple points of view, so there are several storylines and story arcs that need to be kept track of. You can’t have a character in chapter 20 that came from Alabama but suddenly talks with a northern accent in chapter 90. This is where appropriate note taking comes in hand. I keep a word document open with character names and brief descriptions, and little fine details that are crucial to each individual character and the overall story. I also send myself emails when ideas, plotlines, or character changes take place throughout the story, and when I sit down in the morning, I review those emails and drop them into the word document for safekeeping.
Writing a 600-page novel is like climbing Mount Everest; when you begin, you have no idea what you’re getting into. But most of the time, the writer doesn’t begin writing with the thought that the book will turn into a 600-page juggernaut. The story just unfolds into it. When I first sat down to write Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect,I was thinking it would be more or less a short novel-about 75,000 words-and did not know the final word count would cross 157,000. But once the final sentence was written, I was indeed satisfied with the outcome. I enjoy chaos and mayhem and have always performed well during emergencies. Plus, I have an uncanny knack of keeping all those fine details labeled and filed away in my brain, which definitely helps when you’ve got one of those juggernauts on your hands. But it wasn’t just writing Jigglyspot that required that fine attention to detail, because when you’re writing you’re really just letting it all flow from your brain to your fingers to the page-or word document. Or letting it all go, for lack of a better phrase. But where a 600-page novel truly takes form is during the editing process, when you go over the manuscript with a fine toothcomb and really come to understand your story, the characters, and the meaning behind it all.
Editing is the most crucial aspect when crafting such a novel. This is where all those notes you’ve been taking can save the day. Think about what would happen if on page 323 you wrote a backstory for one of your characters-letting your fingers do all the talking in a burst of creative inspiration-but later on you discover that on page 20 you introduced the character under a completely different backstory than what you wrote on page 323. Now you may have some sort of editing nightmare on your hands and will need to review the manuscript for every fine detail pertaining to the backstory, putting right what went wrong. Yes, this can drive someone batty if you let it.
But you have got to remember that rewrites and mishaps are just a part of the process. As your fingers do the talking across the keyboard, the story takes on its own form, like a supernatural creature that is willing the author to bring it to life, and sometimes the characters and the story take a new direction. As the author, you’ve got to allow the story to unfold on its own, knowing it’s your job to connect all the fine details and streamline the narrative towards the conclusion. Re-writes or adding a sentence here and there should be expected. Editing is where the story is tightened up and where the narrative gets a backbone. I often compare it to a painter zooming in on their latest piece of art and fine-tuning every simple stroke of the brush to perfection.
Editing requires a different mind than the creative brain. As an author, you’ve got to cut off the emotional thread that was developed when you were writing. You’ve got to make business decisions and sometimes, no matter how much you love that awesome battle scene that just doesn’t have any meaning to the overall story, you’ll need to make a business decision and cut that part out completely without remorse or a second thought. To break the emotional connection, I always find it best to put the manuscript away for at least a month before editing begins. And always use an editing program-a professional editor too, of course, but when the author is editing an editing program like ProWritingAid can help break the emotional connection and see the manuscript through fresh eyes. As they say, you can’t see the forest from the trees, and stepping away from the manuscript can help bring the author out of the forest so they can see the trees and assess them from a distance.
In conclusion, the most important part when writing a 600-page novel is note taking and editing. The writing is the easy part; just let your fingers do all the talking and have the time of your life breathing life into your story. But when editing, it is best to use the analytical part of your brain and silence the creative itch. You’ve got business to conduct and writing is a business, and every author’s intention should be to release a fine and profound product for the reader to devour. Remember that it’s not personal, it’s business, and in the end it’s your job too, so be the best there is at your job and do what is best for your book to dazzle and have a profound effect on your readers. They will thank you for it.
Keep writing and definitely keep reading.
~ PD Alleva
Sci-Fi and Horror Writer