After years of hoping, wishing, and dreaming, I have a thick novel sitting right in front of me. I did it. I wrote my first full-length novel. How? I just did. I did what any writing website or conference lecturer will tell you: writers write, always. Of course this journey has been long and arduous. For years, I felt it in my bones…knawing away at me…or whispered in my ears on the quietest of nights, “Write that book. Do it. Do it now. What are you waiting for?!”
That’s why I’ve complied my journey and titled it “The Novel Stitch”. A stitch is that pain in the side you get after running a mile or so. That very same pain is felt by writers who want to be writing but aren’t. Thankfully as you will see, there is a simple cure.
The Novel Stitch
1) Pre-contemplation: I thought about writing a book for many, many years. It wasn’t something that I woke up and decided out of the blue to do today. It was always at the back of my mind, snuggled right up against Fear and Doubt. These unfortunate neighbors nestled in next to my dream hurt my ability to take action. Because everyone would love to be a writer but everyone knows it’s next to impossible to do it. Really, now find a real job. Wait…maybe that was my family talking…or friends of the family or strangers. Anyone and everyone will tell you this and it will do a number on your self confidence. That is until you realize that its only you and your computer at the end of the day. No one else is there to stop from trying but yourself.
2) Actual Contemplation: That stitch in my side has only gotten worse, compounded by the time I’ve spent not writing. It’s unbearable but I finally decided so is my attitude. If I’m ever going to do this, I need to do it now. I pull out a treasure trove of ideas scribbled down on napkins and post-its and start thinking about what I want to write about. What would be a good book?
I decided on my topic after considering the words of two authors:
-“Write what you know. If your a woman, write about a woman….” Billy Brooks
– “Tell the story that’s been growing in your heart…the characters you can’t keep out of your head, the tale story that speaks to you, that pops into your head during your daily commute, that wakes you up in the moring.” Jennifer Weiner
3) Research, reading, and more research: I pulled out my debit card and filled my hands full of books on how to write a novel, plot, structure, characters, etc. I wrote down all the advice and pinned it to my wall with admiration as if I’ve been given an insider’s guide to locating The Holy Grail. I read books that sounded like me. Ones I enjoyed. Ones I like my future book to be hugging in the bookstore. I began to contact authors, whom I’d always thought drifted in the unreachable abyss of the publishing world. I asked the questions that were quelling deep inside of me: How did you do it? What do I need to do? Is it worth it? I found out authors are real people (shocking right?), who are all to happy to talk about what it took for them to get where they are. Some had it easy and others didn’t. But one thing stood out to me: Persistence. They kept going and now they are published. It’s as simple as that. My dream finally did not sound like “a dream” anymore to me.
4) Action! While I could wheedle away in the world of knowledge, I didn’t stay for too long. The best advice out there is to not think to long and hard, just start writing before you lose your nerve. I locked myself away with a latte and forced myself to write everyday. I put myself on a strict schedule: 2,000 words a day, five days a week. On a good week I did just that. On a busier week, I managed 6,000 words. The key here is that when my numbers came up short, I didn’t waste time berating myself. Instead, I planned my next move in my book with excitement. Each time I wrote, I felt the stitch in my side lessen.
The Beginning Blues: I was overwhelmed by the daunting task of writing thousands of words. The mere fact that I had written 2,000 words didn’t help at all when I had 64,000 left. That’s where my outline and plot came to the rescue. I focussed on a certain part of my story, sometimes skipping ahead if I was struggling with a particular scene but always making progress. As I typed away, I watched the word count jump from 6,000 to 10,000 to 20,000 and 30,000 words….and felt my heart grow with the characters I was developing.
From the Middle: I had tapped into a parallel universe that know felt like home and created a person out of thin air. My main character felt like a little sister to me: one whom I cared for but was always getting into trouble despite the red flags I placed in her path. I woke-up each day excited to get back to the story. The pages continued to grow without much notice from me because what I was writing wasn’t fake, it was real. And I was right in the middle of it.
In the End: The days leading up to it were slow. I was surprised by the fact that I was suddenly having trouble even typing 500 words. Until it hit me. I was stalling. I had grown so involved that I didn’t want to bring an end to it. I was going to miss everyone I had spent the last 2 1/2 months with. Once I came to terms with the ending, I knew I wouldn’t let my character go without a bang. I happily sat down and wrote the final scene of the book, giving my character something unforgettable.
5) Admiration: I did it. According to a few writer websites, I’ve taken myself from a novice to a writer with a few years under their belt. So what is a writer with my new level of knowledge to do? Celebrate! Go out to dinner and toast to a victory to me, my lead character, and writers everywhere. And that old stitch in my side? It’s like it was never there.
My novel is over. But it’s no longer just a novel. It’s a piece of my soul, my own version of a Harry Potter Horcux. I bled my heart and soul into it as any good writer would. I feel an elation now that’s over and a twinge of sadness because it is over. Almost like a mother, I also feel relieved. I’ve taken my character, held her hand, and now it’s time for her to go out into the world of publishing…I’m so proud! But my journey is far from over, now I must take my novel to those who can truly bring it to life: Agents.