This summer, I'm spending a good amount of my time writing a book I've had in mind for, oh, about seven years. Codename: Jurassic Unicorn.
I've never yet finished a novel. I started one last November, my Kraken Killer project, and was really pumped about it. But for that one, I had a compelling character, setting, and situation, but no plot. I'll come back to it someday; I'm still in love with the aspects of it that grabbed me at first. But Wil thinks my first novel idea is more marketable and won't end up pigeonholing me as a "fantasy writer," per se--and he's probably right. (Not that the working title "Jurassic Unicorn" sends that message ... not at all.)
The problem with Jurassic Unicorn right now is that I have a plot, a situation, and a great setting, but I don't *get* my main character yet. Harvanna was a force to be reckoned with; Miranda is a cipher. She's a brick wall, and I'm not sure if I'm projecting too much of my own life onto her, or not enough. At any rate, I got some good advice today in my writer's group that will help me get to know her better and flesh her out more on the page.
My biggest problem is perfectionism. With short stories, it's not such a problem. The entire story is something you can grasp, you can manipulate, you can fix it. It's a watch with five moving parts as opposed to a thousand. I can finish a draft of a story, read it, see the problems, and say, "Cool--I'll do this, and this, and this, and then it'll be better." And granted, the second draft may not be ready either, but it's noticeably better. I've made progress. I have checked boxes off my list.
A novel is a different beast entirely. Each thing you change means seventeen other things have to be changed. I've finished three chapters (about 15,000 words so far) and I don't like them very much. I like moments in them, but I can see the cracks and they're gaping, and widening quickly the more I write. I can't stand that these cracks are there; it's almost a physical sensation of discomfort, like trying not to scratch an itch, holding myself back from returning to those early chapters to fix the problems rather than doing what everybody tells me I need to do: keep writing.
And I know they're right. I'm not a sculptor, chiseling David out of a pre-existing block of marble. I have to make my own block of marble out of thin air.
So I have to keep going. Despite the discomfort. Despite hating what I'm writing.