*Important announcement about blog at the end of this post.*
The other day, my dad asked me why I haven’t tried sending any of my books to publishers.
“Because they stink,” I told him after a slight pause. It surprised me that he would ask since I wrote those ages ago. For those who have read my blog in recent years may know that I’ve been working on a novel for a while. Let me tell you, though, it isn’t my first. Between the ages 12 to 16, I wrote six books – none of which shall ever meet the eye of the public. One probably shouldn’t count, because it was technically fan-fiction. Four of those belonged to a series that I never finished. I’d tell you what it was about, but sometimes I think about re-writing the whole thing, so I’m keeping that information to myself. It may turn out to be a single book instead of a series, that’s all I can say.
For now, it doesn’t matter, because I’m preoccupied with another story.
In a few days, it will be two years since I started it. Two damn years. So when I was younger, I pulled off writing six books in four years. But I can’t finish one dinky little book in two? What the Hell? Well sure, I haven’t been writing endlessly for two straight years. There have been several periods when I didn’t write at all (sadly). I also didn’t fully understand what story I wanted to tell, not until recently. First, I wrote three chapters, then started over because I didn’t like where it was going. Didn’t help that I actually hated the protagonist. Despised her! Then I wrote several more chapters before I got angry at myself for coming up with such a silly and illogical plot. During the third round, I nearly finished the story, but then I stepped back…
… took one hard, long look at it…
… and threw it in the trash.
I’ve thought about quitting many times, because maybe there isn’t a story, maybe I’m fooling myself. But whenever that happened I’d think of James Joyce. It took him ten years to pen Ulysses. Not that my novel is anything like his, but it makes me feel better. Plus, when he was working on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he got sick of it one day. He threw the whole manuscript in the fire. Fortunately, his wife Nora pulled it out the flames in time. The British professor at Central Michigan University, who taught my class all about Joyce, said that he later thanked her for it: “There are lines in that manuscript I never could have written again.”
I know whom I’m going to thank when my novel is done. Many have helped in some small way, but definitely my mom and my friend Katy who take the time to read my drafts, and now also my dad who encouraged me to write again. A couple weeks ago I had nearly given up on it entirely, because of various reasons I won’t get into. Then he reminded me that writing makes me happy. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? We write because it’s fun.
Think of that if you’re losing hope on your story: Write because it makes you happy. Don’t worry about what people may think. Don’t compare yourself to others. Avoid editing yourself as you write, because the first rough draft will be shitty. It’s always shitty, so deal with it. Don’t spend too much time with the outline, because once you sit down and start typing, your characters show that they have other plans. Sometimes an outline will hold you back, too, because you can’t find the right words; that’s when I improvise. If it’s shitty – probably is – I can fix it later.
With those thoughts in mind, I’ve finally moved forward. I’m 50 pages into the story and it’s getting really exciting.
To maintain this newly found motivation, I have established two things: A deadline and a condition. I will finish the novel by May 1st. By June, I should be editing. The condition: I won’t cut my hair until then. It sounds silly, sure, but I like my hair really short and it’s already down over my shoulders so if this condition won’t do, I don’t know what will.
*Announcement: Doing things differently this year. I’m going to stick to a schedule and post every Wednesday and Sunday, starting January 10.*