Nearly five years ago, I posted an entry to my blog about how I had recently begun writing a novel. How excited I was to tell you of my ambition! And how I’d loved and appreciated the likes and the supportive, enthusiastic comments that little post generated!
Little did I know, then, what lay ahead.
Since the inception of that creative project, my first full-length novel, my path has had a few twists, turns and bumps. One of the biggest and most significant was undoubtedly when I decided, after conceiving a plot, creating the characters and developing an outline, to give up on it.
Well, I didn’t exactly give up on that first effort. No, I chose to set aside that first plot outline for consideration at a later date. I loved it, but not for right now. Instead, I began working on another, entirely different idea for a book. It was an idea that I’d felt more comfortable with and felt more capable writing about. So before long I had the new outline completed, new characters imagined, and I was underway.
But Life happens. I was sidetracked, and devastated, by some major personal events that demanded my attention and reflection. I blogged through it all and managed to do some necessary research for the novel while the going was tough.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
When I finally got back to writing, I imagined how my characters had been waiting for me, patient yet eager to be actually doing something besides standing around, waiting quietly in the wings, looking at their watches or drumming their fingers. At last they were given something to say, and something to do. “Hurray!” they shouted in unison.
Fast forward to today’s writing project. Last year for NaNoWriMo, I returned to that first idea, that first exciting plot outline that I had put aside in 2012. It is of the speculative fiction genre and an entirely different and more ambitious story. I would venture to guess I’m three-quarters done writing the first draft and have hopes of completing it by early fall, when I will begin the initial phase of editing.
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These past five years have taught me the dedication and self-discipline needed to write novels, especially when the only deadline you have is one you have invented for yourself. Some days I’ve written over a thousand words, some days five hundred, and some days, none at all (I’ve tried to keep those to a minimum). Even when I’m not actually writing, I think about my book a lot. My husband and I have watched TV or movies on several occasions, and I’d suddenly realized I’d missed a huge chunk of the story because I was lost in thoughts of my own story!
As strong and compelling as my conviction is, I still have to fight against my nemesis, procrastination. As I’m sure many of you may empathize, even though I love writing and find it rewarding, it is hard work. And it is natural sometimes to feel you are not in the ideal mood for it. But it is important to push through at those times, and demand that little extra from yourself, even if it is only a couple hundred words or so. I have come to appreciate that writing for half an hour is better than not writing at all, so one doesn’t lose momentum and focus.
In some ways, I believe we can compare writing a book to training for and running a marathon. Here’s an excerpt from Running for Fitness by Owen Barder, to illustrate:
The marathon distance is exquisitely set to take us beyond our comfort zone, into a realm in which we confront the limitations of our bodies and our minds. We complete the marathon distance only by patient preparation and mental discipline. There are no short cuts, no easy ways out. The marathon takes us up to, and beyond, the limit of human endurance, into an unknown zone where we confront our true selves, and discover our inner strengths and limits.
I wish all of you fellow wordsmiths luck with your writing in the months ahead. Daunting at times? Yes. Worth the sacrifice of time, and the blood, sweat and tears? Absolutely.
Do you have any thoughts about your own experiences with writing? Is there any advice you would like to share with the writing community?