I've often said writing a novel is like running a marathon, but I'm beginning to think it's more like making a jigsaw puzzle: The charge of the first draft is to get the pieces all laid out on the table, face-up, so you can see what's there. The trick of subsequent drafts is to get them all fitted together into a picture everyone can see -- trying a piece in this place and that, and fashioning new little pieces for the ones that turn out to be missing from the box.
Then you smooth the edges so no one can see them--which admittedly you don't do for a jigsaw puzzle.
In any event do not--do not--break your novel up into little pieces and stick it back in the box for someone else to make again, either. (Or maybe you do? Is that what editing is?)
Some other "writing a novel is like" analogies:
Stephen King: “Writing a novel is like paddling from Boston to London in a bathtub. Sometimes the damn tub sinks. It’s a wonder that most of them don’t.”
E.L. Doctorow: "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way."
Dean Koontz: "Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled."
Chang-rae Lee: "Writing a novel is like spelunking. You kind of create the right path for yourself. But, boy, are there so many points at which you think, absolutely, I'm going down the wrong hole here."
What is writing a novel really like? I fear the correct answer is (g) All of the above. What do you think? I'm working on a piece on this, so please let me know if you post below if it's ok to use in the piece! - Meg
For more on writing by a host of authors, including National Book Award winner Julia Glass and bestseller Jamie Ford, visit 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started.