I am in my parents’ living room typing away. It is two days before Christmas.
Two and a half years ago, I was in this same room, except it was spring break of my sophomore year. I had just wrapped up the first draft of my first manuscript.
Today, I’m pushing myself to hit that fabled 80,000 word mark on my second novel.
When I finished the first book, I was closing the door on characters who had been jumping around my head, living, fighting themselves & each other, existing, for years. I had finally gotten all of that story out on the page (well, screen).
And my brain was quiet. Too quiet.
The mental chatter stopped, because I figured out what I was trying to say. The story, for all the revisions and editing it would soon enough endure, existed.
At that point, that’s all it had to do. I would still have to shape it, but for the moment, it and its characters let go of me.
Between going through more revisions than I can count on that book, spending more energy writing poetry, and cycling through a couple of story ideas before my current WIP grabbed me this summer, I thought I would never write another full novel. I would never have another idea that was worth the time. I wouldn’t know how to work with different characters.
Beyond those fears, I worried I had lost my grip on the act of creating. That the lessons I’d taken from crafting my first book would slip away. I mean, it had been a few years, and I’d changed a lot. Who was to say my creative process wouldn’t grow with me, making every step into unfamiliar territory? I had outlined the first book gain and again until I thought I had a story good enough, but did I even believe in excessively detailed outlines anymore?
First book took me seven months to draft, from 0 words to 80,000.
Second book? I started this past October and I’m sneaking past that mark here in the last few days of December.
I attribute that to a better understanding of how to write a novel objectively, as well as what works for me personally. This time around, I wrote up a brief synopsis to get the bones down. NaNoWriMo pushed me to reach 50,000 words, and you know I couldn’t leave that draft unfinished, no matter how bad it ended up being.
For the past couple of months, I wasn’t feeling totally consumed by this story like I had been by the first one. Were the characters not compelling enough? Had I not taken the time to do enough research? WHY DON’T I FEEL AS WRAPPED UP AS I DID BEFORE? I attributed this lack of confidence to some deficiency in my writing, some defect in the story I just couldn’t see.
But it’s not that. Like I said, all this vomit draft has to do is exist.
Maybe it’s like how Christmas was so magical as a kid. Now that I’m 22, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos, in the business, in the gift-buying and wrapping and giving and cooking and frenzying around, so bad that we don’t even appreciate the real meaning of the holiday.
I’m in grad school now. I’m more of an independent adult. I’m more comfortable and confident in myself, shifting in so many ways from the person I was in March 2017. I don’t have the unbroken hours to write like I did in high school when I was planning the first book.
As I wrapped up my current draft, even in the last 10,000 words or so, my vision for this story expanded. Now I see what it’s really about.
All the bones are scattered, but they exist.
Hitting my totally arbitrary 80,000-word goal, scrolling through over 300 pages of sentences of varying quality, stepping away from that mess for a few weeks or a month or whatever it takes to marinate, that’s like zooming out. Watching Earth from a spaceship. You’ve lived in this world for so long, where cities, countries, continents, and seas seemed impossibly vast. And you blink, and now they’re microscopic dots on a globe.
The problems don’t go away, but for now, that doesn’t matter.
One day in the new year, I’ll come back down to earth and get my hands dirty with revision.
For now, I’m enjoying the view.
And you should too. I’m sincerely grateful for everyone who takes the time to read my blog and has played a part in my 2019. From the bottom of my heart, here’s to happy holidays and a blessed, graceful new year.