This blog post is happening a bit out of order. Typically you write the final words of your book, and then you post a picture of the words THE END on your Instagram. When you finish, you write an anthem-like caption saying something like, “Blood, Sweat, Tears and too many Lattes but I’m finally done!”.
Don’t worry, you should expect to see that in a few hours from me as well. There is no way I would pass up an Instagram opportunity like that one. I don’t have a great caption yet, but I’ll come up with something pithy. Totally open to suggestions.
Once I post this blog link to my on Social, I will begin to dig into the final pages of the novel I have been working on for the better part of this year. For those of you who haven’t ever attempted a novel, I am here to confirm that it is a process! It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely a commitment. I am about an hour and a half from THE END and don’t worry, you will KNOW when that happens.
When you decide to write a novel you should know what you are getting yourself into. First of all, you actually need to write it! You have to sit down every so often (sometimes once a week, sometimes once a day, sometimes for hours and hours on end) and write it. There is a person behind the computer on every single book you see in your local library or bookstore. I have so much respect for anyone who has written a book regardless of the quality. It is an undertaking and a dedication of time that you cannot begin to imagine when you first enter into the endeavor. These are some of the emotions those people have endured in the writing of your favorite (or not so favorite) book:
- I have to tell this story
- It’s just pouring out of me
- At this rate I could be done by April
- Ok, not my best, but I’ll fix it later
- This is hard
- I hate this
- I can’t believe I am this stupid
- I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to learn what an idiot I am
- I should never write again
- I just wasted six months of my life writing absolute garbage
- I’m going to rip this piece of shit up and set it on fire in the dumpster
- It’s a piece of shit but don’t burn it yet
- Omg, I think I figured it out
- This is better
- Ok, wait there might be something worth saving
- This isn’t terrible
- This is OK
- That sounds good
- I like that part
- I can’t wait to go back and fix all my mess
- My story is a sweet baby
- I’m done
- Time to re-write
- Wash. Rinse. Repeat
See the arc? It’s very subtle, but what I’ve learned is that it’s almost unavoidable to get to the dumpster fire phase of writing. You must be mere moments away from setting your work on fire and allowing a hobo to urinate on it, right before inspiration hits again. From what I’ve been told this cycle gets easier when you write books two, three and four, so I guess I still have lots to learn.
This year has been transformative. Simply setting the goal of writing a full novel and seeing it through to completion has completely changed my life. It’s changed the conversations I have with people. It’s brought me to places like Iceland and Newport, RI, and I know that writing will bring me to many many more. It’s given me a brilliant excuse to escape domesticity to do something I love. I’ve fallen back in love with writing and reading. I read everything. I adore reading.
Writing this book has reminded me that you can get inspiration from anywhere. Along the way, I encountered some major challenges with my protagonist’s journey. All of them were solved by watching the news, talking to smart people about the human condition, and thinking about one of my favorite character development concepts – having “stakes”. A random woman I happened to sit next to on the bus on a tour in Iceland completely changed the trajectory of my book, and I am forever grateful. When she asked me what the story was about I told her a very clunky version with no ending. She asked me, “What does your character care about?” and as that list unfurled, everything changed and I am writing a new story (It’s better. I promise). I don’t know this woman’s name or where she lives, but I swear if I find her I will send her an advanced copy signed, “Thank you for saving me from myself”.
My characters are better as a result of all of the people who influenced me this year. It makes me think that even though artists and writers are typically characterized as isolated and reclusive, they need to peek out, connect. Even though some of the best work can be done living in the clouds, they still need to put their feet back on the ground in order to create something meaningful. I know that I do.
So here we go kiddos. I am in the final stretch of my first draft. When I write the words, “The End” my next task will be to Instagram. Then I will print that puppy out and mark it up with the bloodiest red maker. I will take that massive lump of clay and turn it into a masterpiece. This is the part that all of my friends who are more experienced writers tell me is the fun part. I am going to trust them and dive as fully into that process as I did the first draft. Time to get to The End and then kill all of my darlings. I can’t wait.
Before I go do that, I just wanted to say that if we’ve talked about this book and you’ve asked me a question or shown even the slightest bit of interest, you’ve inspired me. Even if we’ve never talked about it and you’ve just cheered for me, it’s meant a lot. Writing is hard. It’s lonely. It’s really great when it comes, and when it doesn’t it can feel really really bad. I just want you all to know, you are in this book. I had you with me the whole time, and that’s why it means so much. It can never sell. It can sit in a drawer forever and it will still be so special to me. The first one always is I guess. Wish me luck and follow me on Insta for more moment to moment updates.