Every so often, I look back to November 2, 2010, the day I started writing my first novel.
"There's no way I can do this," I'd thought when my friend Jen challenged me to write for NaNoWriMo. "My fiction sucks, I've never written anything longer than a couple thousand words, and...my fiction sucks." But I started anyway, and a couple days later Charles accidentally gave me the hook that would get me into my own story. Zombies. Yeah, man. I can write about zombies.
By mid-November my story was flowing and I harbored Grand Plans for what would happen to my epic novel when I completed it. Publication! Awards! A movie deal! An Oscar? Hell, why not, right? Dream big!
So I started following agent blogs and researching query letters and the whole "how to sign an agent" process. Because clearly, this novel would be ready to go by springtime at the very latest, so I needed to be ready to dazzle all the agents who would beat each other down on the race to get to my front door.
And throughout all of my dreaming and scheming, Charles's voice was in my ear. The Realist, as ever. "You know, baby...people spend years on one novel. It could take you years to write this."
But I wasn't willing to listen. For I was different, you see. I was special. Every word I wrote was gold. And I could have this done in six months or less.
This dream carried me through the first phase of writing: the quick and dirty rough draft of about 65,000 words. I knew I had reached the end of my story line one night in January as I wrote upstairs in my bed. As I typed the last words, I was literally giddy. I got up and bounced around the room a little, then ran downstairs to tell Charles (who'd fallen asleep on the couch earlier that evening). "I'm done! I'm done!" I squealed.
Bleary and confused, he reminded me. "Baby, people spend years on one novel. You're probably not done yet."
Oh, poo. I thought. Don't rain on my parade.
I figured I had about a month of editing ahead of me, and then I could start sending it out. That's all it would take...clearly.
By early February, I had a draft ready to go to my early readers. My Alphas. The first two to read it were my brothers. Jonathan was proud, exuberant. He could see it being made into a movie, and the only flaws he found were inconsistencies in my plot, points where I contradicted myself. That's the kind of thing that drives him crazy when he reads, so those were the things I had to fix.
Daniel was a bit more....realistic? Critical? He sent me two pages of notes of characters with whom he struggled, plot-points which were too far-fetched, and other areas of concern.
Both brothers gave me exactly what I needed...a burst of confidence, and a reality check.
So I sat back down to edit more, still thinking it was just a couple more months.
Finally, by the end of June, I started sending it out into the world, and you already know what happened when I did that. A whole lot of nothing. No agents beating my door down. Not even any helpful feedback. Just...nothing. Because really, I'm not special, and neither was my novel. And I wasn't even all that proud of my work, because I knew it needed something...else. Something more. I just didn't know what.
And it was a little hard not to give up.
But then there was Charles's voice in my ear again. "Don't give up, baby. You know it takes people years to write a novel."
And so I started on my additional story lines, and it's taken me two months to write them. I love where I've taken the story, to this whole other, darker place, and even though it's all really rough, I'm proud of what I've done this time.
Last night I wrote the final words for my final story line of this book. This time, I was on the couch, and Charles was watching TV beside me. This time, there was no giddiness, no squealing. Instead, I shut down my computer for the night and went upstairs to read.
Because this time, I know exactly how much work I have ahead of me. The outline I have to write to help me merge my three stories. The ink I'll get all over my hands and even my face (I'm messy!!!) when I edit on paper. The tedious nights of inputting my manual edits into my computer files.
It's gonna be a while before I have a draft ready for my next set of readers.
But you know what? It's ok. Because it takes people years to write a novel, and I'm ok with that.