The more I write the more I realise that, for me at least, writing is a continuous process of improvement. The first word, or sentence, or paragraph, is rarely adequate. There are always alternative words that communicate much the same thing, but not exactly the same thing. To my mind, the writing process is a journey in search of exactly the right words.
At first, I am not always sure what I am writing about and that makes composition even harder. At an early stage, it can be a distraction, searching for the right words, so I have found that I need to find a balance between making changes and making progress with the story. You can get so caught up in the search for perfection that you never get to the end. In fact, I spent several writing decades stuck in that loop.
I am pretty close now to a full draft of my next book, Last Summer Night, and that brings problems of scale. With nearly one hundred thousand words there are innumerable options for developing the story and the characters, aligning the themes and pacing the story, while still writing something interesting and believable. Oh, and I’m still searching for the right words.
For me, the complexity is exciting. Ideas and themes and language emerge that can take the story in unexpected directions, if I let them. At this stage I am trying to capture an interesting and evocative story that has just the right components selected from all that have appeared along the way. It is a tough but fascinating task, which only ends when you know that these are exactly the right words, in the right combination, and with the right language, for what you want to say.
I think you just know when you’re there, but you have to keep going until then, continuously improving what you have written. When you can’t find a better way to say what you want to say, you are done.