I want to take a few minutes out of my Friday to talk about writing…again. Over the past two months, I have been taking a much needed break from writing. Well, I should rephrase, a break from writing a novel. I did plenty of blogging, and brainstorming, and worked on scripts for the webseries I’m doing with a group of teen writers and actors, but not a word was written in a manuscript.
My first novel took a lot out of me. One friend compared the experience of finishing a book (and by finishing, I mean being done with revision) to post-partum or baby blues. I loved this comparison, because it gave a rhyme and reason to the utter sense of emptiness I was left with when it was over.
Beyond emptiness was exhaustion. Beyond exhaustion was nagging, terrifying fear.
What if I had put all my writing talent into one book?
How did I do it?
Can I actually write an epic fantasy sequel?
Why did I decide to do a book that would require a sequel as my first novel?
Side question: Why the hell did I pick fantasy with extensive world building?
These are just a few of the questions that began to surface in my time off, leading me to a paralytic state whenever I sat down at my computer. The first few weeks off were bliss. I was in Hawaii. I was hanging with my son. I had long lunches and martinis.
It did not last. It wasn’t an issue of not being busy enough — please, I have a four-year-old son, an acre and a half of land, and plenty of extracurriculars to fill my day — it was the not writing. It was the fear of never really being able to do it again.
And it was this that finally forced me, beyond all other voices, to sit down (wine in hand, because, well, liquid courage) and write the opening pages to my sequel. Upon doing so, the whispers of inadequacy and trepidation ceased. I could only hear my main character talking to me, telling me she wasn’t done. Her voice reignited proved something very simple to me.
I can do it again, and it is very much just as it was the first time. I do have more in place to work from. I do know the general direction I’m going. I have a world already built and characters developed. I do know that it will be utter, hopeless shit for a long time. And that is OK, because somewhere in revision I learned to accept the shit for what it was: the first step in the creative process.
At dinner last night I was discussing this with my husband, and we got around to trying to figure out how many words I had written total. The first draft was 76,000 words. From that draft I either cut or revised close to 50,000 words. The next drafts went much the same, only with adding in characters and many world building elements, they grew to somewhere in the 90-96,000 word mark. My most recent revision, which also saw major reworking, is 104,000 words. For YA fantasy, this is about as big as you can get and not threaten turning people off to your MS. ( I would like it to be shorter, but can’t seem to get it there.) Just guessing, my word count total into this novel so far is somewhere around 500,000 words.
The encouraging thing in this comes from the fact that seeing all of that in print doesn’t make me less excited about doing it all again. In fact, last night I decided I am ridiculous with anticipation about the prospect of another book. I am so excited I may try writing two at the same time. (I may also just be a lunatic.)
What you should be taking from all of this is? Fear can be your friend, but it is never a reason not to do something. I would argue, it may even be a reason to do something. I am a writer, not because I want to publish a book. I want to publish a book because I am a writer. Writing is my way to balance and maintain all the other aspects of my person. It makes me solid in the world when I want to float away. I am writing again, which means I am me again.