One of the most fascinating aspects of working on a project as long as a novel is the creation of a final product whose content echoes your thoughts over a long, long period of time. Fascinating, but difficult. Those fluctuations in your development come through in the draft and can make the whole thing feel rocky if your lucky, self-contradictory and pointless if you’re not. The challenge, then, is developing a voice solid and authentic enough to last you a year or two, along with a worldview that takes all of its counterparts into account and is well-thought-out enough to remain more or less unchanged by new information. Both of those things are pretty hard to do and take a while, but they’re also essential, at least to me. And they matter more than anything else in the process of growing a spine and learning to stand your ground when challenged, not just in writing, but in life. And when you do accomplish those two things, you’ll know, because all of a sudden your work will naturally be stylistically cohesive, meaning it won’t read like a group-project story written via email by an uninspired M.F.A creative writing class. Which not only makes writing much easier, but also makes you feel like a real person.
As far as lessons-learned go in my very limited experience, this is one of the bigger ones.