The truth: I almost stopped writing my novel last week.
More truth: things never turn out the way you plan. Sometimes, they turn out better.
The past few months have been the kind of challenging that leaves you in bed for lack of energy rather than desire to stay there for extended periods of time. I got a new job, that job ended, I tried rewriting my novel, it got hard, I kept trying.
I think if I’m going to sit here and dish out writing advice to you several times a week (and it will be several times a week again, soon) I have to be honest about my own journey as a writer and aspiring novelist. Because it isn’t easy. In fact, if my brief hiatus hasn’t spoken for itself, I’m struggling as a writer now more than I ever have before.
My flaw isn’t that I don’t take my own advice (I give it often enough, it would be hard not to weave key points into my own work), but that I recognize common struggles in the writing community as a whole and don’t always recognize them in myself.
As you may or may not have read previously, I’ve been working on the same project off and on for the past three years. That’s completely normal whether you’ve published a book before or not (in my case not). I’ve changed so much of my original idea since first starting the initial draft that honestly, I’ve grown frustrated and dissatisfied with it, and this realization brought up a terrible thought: is it time to call it quits?
Now you know I’m not a quitter. So let me tell you the story of how I went from being devastated and afraid of saying goodbye, to comfortable with changing my angle, focusing on a new story and falling in love with it all over again, all without having to abandon the characters I adore so much.
Last month I wrote about how I was planning to remove a specific character’s point of view from my book because her narration kept getting in the way of the story I wanted to tell. The problem was, I really liked that character. And the fact that her thoughts and opinions all of a sudden didn’t belong in my book anymore bothered me.
Yet as writers we know our stories better than anyone else, and our characters even better than that. Deep down we know whether our characters have a place in our stories, or if they have an even bigger story they’re begging you to tell.
This past National Novel Writing Month, in order to help me move forward with the original book, involved starting the second installment in the series. The second book told back stories of most of the major characters as they reflected on the events that had occurred at the end of Book 1 and as they prepared for key events in the second half of Book 2 and third installments of the series. Those back stories were what made me fall in love with Ollia, the character whose point of view I have since removed from at least the early books in the series.
I realized amidst my doubt and fear and uncertainty that, while I do not want to abandon the stories the series tells, and plan to return to them in time, Ollia’s story is the one I’m most eager to tell. Her story begins not with Book 1, though, but long before, when she has to learn and “unlearn” to suppress her reactions to emotional stimuli in order to comply with the rules of her education system (it’s a long story – no pun intended).
This is where she meets and, maybe, quite possibly develops a crush on another major character, which I tried to fight, because I do not want to write another love story, but what can I say? Characters are people too (depending on your genre); they want to fall in love just as badly as we do.
So if you’re wondering about Camp NaNo progress, I’m behind, but I have not given up. I have enough free time now that writing 5,000 words in two days to reach my goal won’t be much of a stretch. I have never lost a Wrimo. I really don’t want to start now.
The point of this post is to remind you that it’s okay to share your writing struggles with other writers. I’ve shared mine with you, and I’m extremely embarrassed to admit I almost quit, even though I didn’t. So go ahead, share them here in a comment. If I can do it, you can too!
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.