The Making of the Claw: Further Thoughts on Writing a Draft

I'm currently working on a draft of the second book of the Cats of the Afterlife series, tentatively titled The Sharpest Claw. And here's a true confession: three weeks ago, I hit a wall. I was 28,000 words in, and it felt difficult to me to stay engaged during my one-hour writing practice. I kept repeating to myself the trope that I've so often heard, “Finish your horrible draft.”

However, I eventually heard a voice that told me to stop. To me, the meaning was obvious. I wasn't supposed to stop writing or stop writing this particular book. I needed to stop this process.

So I printed out what I had. I took a few days to read it over and think about it. Then I circled back to the beginning.

Some of the changes are minor. Some of the order of moments has changed. If I had to diagnose my earlier problem, I would say that I was in too big of a hurry. I need to slow down, show each step of the journey, and allow myself to dwell in wonder. Since I've been trying to abide by these principles, I look forward to writing every day. It's actually more than that. I feel like I must have a certain amount of time with my story each week. It is a top priority.

Do I have everything figured out? No. When I started this project, the one thing I felt truly confident about was the ending. Now I doubt it. I would be surprised if it ends up that way now. There's been a character who has been flitting in and out of this project. I had thought that she would make her entrance in Book 3. Now it looks like she may show up in the end of Book 2. But I'm not sure. I have an idea where I want each character to be at the end of the book. I just have to work out the specifics.

Reading this, you might come to the conclusion that I'm a “pantser,” a writer who writes by the seat of her pants. I really like to have a solid outline before I start. I like to think that I know what I'm doing before I embark on linear sentences. But once those words go down, something happens. Things are exposed. Things become clear. Characters express themselves. I have to listen to them and to myself.