After fifteen years, I can finally say that I’ve completed the first draft of a novel. When I shared my news with my friend Kat, she looked at me excitedly and asked, “How did it feel?”
Without a moment’s hesitation I responded, “like crippling self-doubt.”
I started writing when I was pretty young. In fact, the other week I found one of my first short stories ever. I wrote it in the third grade. It was a fan fiction piece about Pokemon, starring myself and a couple of my best friends. We looked like secret agents (I know because drawings were included). We beat up bad guys. We wore sunglasses. It was better than most of my writing now.
When I was a teenager, I got about thirty thousand words into a novel called Regarding Seagulls, a story that, were I to pitch it now, came across as a mix between the Hallmark channel and the CW network.
Oh, I’ve got your interest piqued? Maybe I’ll revive it some time. Sadly, I came home from school one day to discover the family computer’s hard drive had crashed. Bye-bye massive amount of work for a teenager. Bye bye Regarding Seagulls.
I wrote a full-length play, Melt, to bounce back. It was a good time. My high school’s drama club was nice enough to give me a budget and green light to produce the thing. The show actually came out pretty good, in spite of the script. I credit that to the amazing group of friends at my back and the talented cast that took a chance on it. Among others, the cast boasted Sofia Pernas (a main character on NBC’s The Brave and now CBS’ Blood and Treasure) and Dan Rosales (who recently starred off-Broadway in the parody Spamilton).
Later, as a pet project, my friend Miranda and I tried to co-write a novel. We traded off chapters. It was actually really fun, a gritty action/romance with mobsters and mysterious connections. Once for my birthday, she printed out all the chapters we’d written so far. It meant a lot to me, like it was this special experience we had, special enough to be wrapped up and given for what it was, a gift.
At some point, I told myself, if I ever wanted to be a writer, I needed to pump out and complete one of these stories out. That led me to my current list of stalled titles. I can’t tell you about those yet, because technically, I haven’t abandoned them. But, I didn’t start my recent book, The Crimson Inkwell, until the beginning of 2018.
Seven months isn’t an amazing writing speed or anything for a first draft, but at least it got done. And, I’ve found myself wondering, “what changed?”
I’ve had accountability groups before. I’ve tried several “10 tips to finish your book” techniques. I even considered going into some of those programs where you invest money and unless you meet a goal you set when you sign up, they keep it.
I’m still not sure exactly, but I’ve narrowed down a couple contributing factors. Maybe they can help you, too, if you’re a stuck writer like myself.
First, I put some money in the game, and not just not in a gimmicky way. I invested in the craft. I bought a program specifically designed for drafting creative pieces and put some money down to get some training about prepping work for publishing. I considered it a professional investment, and by so doing it helped me classify the skill in my head as more than just a little dalliance on the side.
The other big thing that helped me was shifting my mindset from believing I was working on my masterpiece to believing I was working on my first book. I like the plot and genre of my book. I trust that with the Internet there are other people out there that will like it, too. Before, I based my entire opinion of my writing on a single first try book. It was tough.
Finally, I got sick of the “writing theory.” I was planning on signing up for another writing conference when I got this pit in my stomach. The year before, one of the author’s at that conference had challenged attendees to “shut up and finish a damn novel.” I felt sick that I was going back empty-handed again, and I was tired of talking endlessly about the perfect way to plot or make characters. I’m not saying I mastered writing principles by any stretch of the imagination, but at a certain point you have stop talking about swim strokes and jump in the water.
I’m still in the trenches. I finished a draft, and I’ve got revisions to do now, then a beta reader round, then more revisions, etc. But, I’m hoping to get this thing out in the next few months. I’m trying to fall in love with the process, tweaking, really trying find depth with characters, considering feedback, and the endless re-reading. I’m just glad that I finally have a milestone out of the way.
Anyway, keep an eye out. I better stop procrastinating and get to it.
If you want to join the beta reader list, I’d love to have you. Just sign up below. To say thanks and to hold you over until the novel is ready, I’ll send you a copy of my short story The Price of Freedom.