Is there a loser badge for NaNoWriMo, because if yes, I want one?

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I did not win NaNoWriMo this year. And yet I feel elated now that it is over.

I knew the project I wanted to work on. It was a project that I have had ticking around for several years.  I have already tried writing in multiple times before this.  I have IDEAS for it.  I know the twist.  I know how I want you to feel while you read it. I know the type of voice I want, and the POV.

But then when it came time to writing it I didn’t have all of my scenes worked out and I felt like I was wondering around a bit lost. Part of the reasons I had failed to finish this project before was the wondering around lost bit.  The other part was I was trying to tell it in first person, but had way too many players in the game that needed their angle.  The other part was that it was a much bigger story that anything I had tried before, and I didn’t feel I had the writing chops at the time.

At the end of November this I have the beginning scenes written for this novel. I have Character backstories for almost all of key players.  I know the ending, we’ll kind of; I know the twist.

What I need to do now is finish plotting it out. I need to take the time to see this story through, and really build a comprehensive outline.  Then when it comes time to sit down and write it out, I will have a much better understanding for each scene and what is going on in it.  All of the questions I’m asking, should have answer in the novel.

That’s what I’m going to do for this project. I’m going to set myself up for success.  When I say I’m writing or working on it, what I will really be doing is brainstorming for it.  I will be immersing myself in this world, and really figuring out the details, and the flow of the story.  I’m really really excited about this.  And with the pressure of NaNoWriMo being off, I feel like I can properly take the time to do this, rather than pumping out word count.

So I lost. But I lost in service of the novel.  I lost with intention that I want to create something epic.  And to do that, I need more time.  This year was about quality not quantity.  I’m happy with the quality of what I have produced so far, and will be happier still to continue figuring out the depths of this book, and getting them into a proper outline before I start writing the scenes.  I’m looking for my guideposts now.

Paris Above

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(Yes that is a wishbone for a handle, with the words wish at the bottom of the mug.  Found on sale while shopping recently, and it screamed buy me!  As a huge fan of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, how could I not?)

Once upon a time I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone when it first came out and I was swept away into the story.  It wasn’t just the story being told, but how it was being told.  Laini Taylor has a way with words, that feel like magic.  Like every word creates an enchantment and builds her story so organically.  It never feels rushed, it never feels drawn out; the pacing is spot on.  And the world building.  I could live in her world. Needless to say I was captivated.

Later that winter, I was going to a Bell Canto Christmas choir to see a friend sing. It was a seasonal tradition while he performed with them.  The concert was held in a church and there is this magnificent organ with pipes that decorates the room.  Decorate isn’t the right word.  It sits their majestically and I want nothing more than to hear someone play on it.  I always imagine that it would be a transcendent experience, despite the fact that I have never listened to organ music before.

On the way home the air was cold, the type that bites your nose hairs. There was snow on the ground, and the night was dark, and the stars bright.

The entire evening had this magical feel to it. The music. The holiday spirit.  Even the cold winter outside with the glittering snow, and chilly nipping air.  It was a feeling sitting in the air that night, and that feeling is what I wanted to capture.  That essence.

That’s when the idea for Paris Above was born. A girl who could float on air, who saved a boy, who was an Organ player, set in Paris, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, during the holiday season.

I then spent a considerable amount of time trying to write it. Several NaNoWriMo’s I went in with the intention of finishing it.  I never did.   The story was too big for me at the time. I didn’t know the direction I was taking.  I flirted with a lot of what if ideas.  I did a lot of research on Paris and places and things I wanted to include.  I had characters. I had backstory. I had scenes written.  It wasn’t working.  It flat out was not at all what I wanted.  In my imagination, it had depths and layers, but on paper, it was just flat, one dimensional and tripe.  It was a mockery.  It mimicked.  And worst of all, it held no magic.

But still I was in love with the idea. The only reasonable course of action was to realize that at this time I didn’t have the skill set needed to tell the story I wanted. So I set it aside.

I spent more time learning, by reading, by writing, by living. I learnt how to create an arch.  I learnt character development.  I learnt about world building.  I learnt about different tenses and POV. I learnt about hard knocks and how to persevere. I learnt, and learnt, and learnt some more.

Writing this book has never been easy. But this time re-writing, I feel like I have hit the right notes.  When I show up to the page, I’m happy with what is coming out of me and where the story is going.  I have scenes planned ahead of time.  I know the arch of the story I want to tell.  I have changed POV from first person to third.  I thought third would be hard, as it’s not my natural writing voice, but it works for this project.  It works so very, very well.

Writing this book is still not easy, but I finally feel like I know myself better as a writer. I trust myself more. Metaphors are easier.  World building is easier.  Scenes with multiple people are easier. All the research and the characters and the false starts, and the meandering scenes that didn’t work, has helped shape the type of story I want to tell.  I know how to boil it down, what to include, what to hint at.  I can do a quick 5 minutes of research, and feel on track, rather than feeling like I am climbing down a rabbit whole and getting lost. It’s still a hot mess, because it’s still a first draft, but this first draft is better than any other first draft I have ever drafted.

I’m excited to get to the end of this.  But I’m also excited to take my time doing it right.

The ticking and the toking

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No fresh shipwrecks have occurred this November.  No new storms blowing in on the westerly front.  Except my life is still a shipwreck, that we are piecing back together, and it’s been a hard November motivation wise with that alone.  It’s been a long trying year.  I know I’m stronger for it, I know I have found new depths to resilience.  But I also know that I’m worn out.  I’m tired of shoring up.

So it’s been challenging doing NaNoWriMo for me.  The most challenging part was the showing up this year.  My brain would be in a fog.  I wouldn’t have the energy.  I wasn’t feeling the passion yet.  I wanted to feel the passion and thought if I could find that the rest would follow.  Or I could ride the adrenaline of the passion.

But my life has been a ticking clock of worries this past year, so those ticks didn’t stop for November.  And add this thing that means so much to me, to the pile, and it all just toked louder.

I finished a WIP that had been many years in the making.  It was a distraction project that should have been quick and easy.  It was not.  But I was determined so I plowed forth.  I finished a month before NaNoWriMo started, and then started with the downward slope, of how do I do this again?

I thought I would ride a high.  I would be like YASSSS!!!!! I did the thing.  Now I know I can do it.  Instead I was like, now I know how much work and time it was, and this was supposed to be the easy project.  The next thing up is the hard project.  If the easy project was this much hard, how much harder will be the hard project.

I thought I will re read my past stuff on the hard project.  That will make it easier.  See what I have, and play fill in the blanks.  But I ran out of time, and somewhere in the back of the ticking and the toking was a murmur.  It said, you have outgrown what you have already written.  It said, you need to rewrite.

I didn’t understand why though till now.

Now I know, that my skills have changed.  I am better.  That easy project taught me a lot, and I have better tools than before.  What I really needed to do, was build the foundation of my novel up again from the bottom.  I had good bones, but I needed a steadier start.  I had good ideas, but I needed a stronger voice.

It’s near the end of November, and I know with absolute certainty I am not going to win NaNoWriMo this year.  It’s not in the cards.  But this year, I’m feeling like despite my shipwrecked life, and the ticking and toking of the clock, this is the best choice for this project.  To make this the best project I can, giving it the time and space it needs to be written, is the best thing I can do for it.  That decision right their, bam, huge weight off my shoulders.  HUGE!

I feel now like I can show up to writing and be productive but not feel the stress either.  That I can set a deadline that is more of a marathon pace, than this constant sprint.  I’m going to keep writing, but I’m not going to kick myself while I’m down if I miss a night.  If I need to miss a night and do other things, like recharge and be with friends.

They say writing is about sacrifice.  About committing and making it come first.  We’ll right now I need to come first.  The machine that does the writing, she needs to be taken care of.

They say that first drafts are for just for the writer, and I never truly understood that till now.  While this draft is more deliberate, more clean than anything I’ve written before, it’s still clunky.   There are still things in there that need to be finessed, but that is later.  That is for edits when I make this book for not me.  While it’s just for me, while I am setting up my chess board, I’m allowed to be obvious about it.  I’m allowed to overwrite.

I wanted to be subbing to an agent by my 32nd birthday.  I think that is a bit unrealistic.  If I wasn’t working full time, then yes, I could do that.  But working full time, I would simply burn out.  My birthday is 3 months away, and I know the lifting that still needs to go into the finished WIP.  It’s not ready for an agent.  And I’m not sure I want that to be the book.  I kind of want this one to be the book.

Their is a thing that I have bookmarked for this summer.  A mentorship I want to try out for.  Free.  Online.  But it’s like querying and auditioning, and I want to take Paris through that. That will be my new goal.

So these are my thoughts post NaNoWriMo (I know I still have a few more days).  But this is what is preventing me from napping right now, and I desperately need a nap because we just finished the overnight write in, and I have plans this afternoon.  My anxiety kept ticking about, and I need it to stop.  If I didn’t have plans, I would sooth it with endless episodes of TV.  That is the balm it demands sometimes.  Distract me so I forgot, that I can’t control things and am anxious about the things I can’t control.

It’s been a challenging November, but then again that has been the theme of 2016 for me.  I’ve learnt a hell of a lot, but I think next year, can we have more joyous life lessons, that don’t come with the hard nocks.

P.S. Secret name for this project is Paris Above.  Or Paris for short.

Vulnerable

I feel like my chest has been cracked open this morning, and the inky blankness that has been poisoning my insides is seeping out. My throat is a little swollen for emotion, and my eyes are a little soar for resisting tears.  I feel scared, and like my heart might just go screeching away in a car from a get-away scene.

I read a speech by Leah Bobet, and a blog post by my friend Steph. Leah is in that glorious stage of being a writer, and Steph and I are in that stage of wanting to be a writer.  We all write, but one of us is published and the rest of us are not.  Which means that even though we are on the same journey, we are on that road at different parts, and each of us having feelings about that road.

I have been feeling very melancholy lately. There are a variety of factors that go into that.  I don’t know how to list them all here, without feeling like I’m tearing too much of my fear out and putting it on the page for criticism.  It’s like holding onto that fear is what is keeping me glued together right now.

But still, here goes. Some of that melancholy comes from the day job.  Some of that from bills.  Some of that from upcoming holidays.  Some of that from the elections that just past.  All of that makes me questions my voice as a writer.  Why am I writing?  Who am I to fling words into the void?  Will this story make a difference?

I’m feeling small. I’m feeling vulnerable. I’m feeling lost.  I feel like a storm is raging around me, and I’m being tossed on a ship from side to side, and the sea wants to swallow me whole, and I know that if I fall in I will drown. And I’m paralyzed to move, because if I let go of where I am now, to try and do something else that could save me, what if I lose my footing along the way.  What if I go overboard?

I sit at work, and question what I’m doing here. I tell myself I only need survive so many more hours.  I think this time could be better spent.  I could be walking my dogs.  Tidying my house. Working on my novel.  I did all of that on Wednesday and it was glorious.  I’m tired of fitting writing into the margins of my life. I want it to be what I shine a spotlight on.  But I also know I need to keep a roof over my head, and food on the table, and I’m not willing to sacrifice or downsize for more writing time. I have worked too hard to have the luxuries I have, and yes they are luxuries, to start at the bottom again.  I just can’t fathom doing that.

And because I don’t want to start at the bottom, I need to come to peace with my writing being in the margins for now. I need to remind myself of my long term goals.  But, then I will see other writers, with more books out, and I’m still struggling on working on my second complete project.  I still need to go back and do edits on my first complete project.  I feel immensely overwhelmed by the journey ahead of me.  I can look down the mountain and see how far I’ve come, but the peak is still shrouded in mist, and the oxygen up here is getting less, and is replaced by more and more self-doubt.

Life is going to try and derail you at every turn on this journey. Certainly there are easier paths to follow.  I’m in the middle of NaNoWriMo fighting an existential crisis.  And yet, if I take away the writing because it’s too hard, my life just looks empty.  I don’t know who I would be any longer. Writing is my guidepost and it’s what allows me to push through these times of chaos and doubt.  But it all feels so intertwined, all of the chaos and doubt.  I feel like I can’t see one for the other.

When Leah Bobet says writing is hard, she’s not lying. When Steph says she’s been derailed and feeling lost, I get that.  Both of those things speak to the struggle I have been having.

If you have a chance read both of those things, Leah’s speech, and Stephanie’s blog. Sometimes the comfort comes in knowing you’re not alone.  And in that comfort we find strength to rally again and find the words we need to tell our stories.

For me the comfort come in writing about how I’m feeling, of placing that outside of myself. Hopefully when I get home tonight I will find the margin, and get my words in.  I will brew some coffee if need be, because who cares about sleep patterns, it’s the weekend.  This weekend, my goal is to write, and to not let those fears and doubts in.  The storm will have to rage on without me, because I’m creating a bunker, and blocking out the rest.

Good Words (as a good friend Clay likes to say at the end of a writing event. The new standard of goodbye amongst writers.)

 

P.S. I would like to add an amendment to also read Liza Palmer’s blog post regarding failure and success, and how we define those.  I seam to be stumbling across all of the things I need to be hearing today regarding my craft.  It’s been a good day for pep, despite my ennui.

The annual NaNoWriMo Progress report… still in progress.

I thought that I would have my novel outlined before I started NaNoWriMo.  That I would read through past failed draft attempts at it, and have a solid understanding of what I was trying to do.  I thought I had all of the characters already named.  I thought I knew what I was doing and that I would have a plan for it.

But as the weeks, then days, then hours slowly crept up to NaNoWriMo go time, all I had was intentions.

As I started I knew the opening scene, and I knew what I wanted the twist to be.  I knew I wanted to write in third person, but I also knew I might end up getting my tenses mixed up between past and present.  I knew that I hadn’t written in third person in a very long time, and that chances are it was going to feel very unnatural to me, a girl who loves first person.  I also knew that I had way too many POVs to pull of first person, so it HAD to be third person.  Too many angles to cover to tell the whole purview of the story, I couldn’t narrow it down to a single telescope.

So here I am a week in, and surprisingly ahead, if only by a breeze.  I can regularly hit 3K day on a work day, and more on a non-work day, if I don’t get sidelined by everything else that is distracting in life.  I feel my style as a writer has vastly improved since my first pallid attempts at NaNoWriMo.  When they say you need to put in hundreds/thousands/millions of hours to hone your craft they are not lying. It’s daunting for sure, but every draft that is sunk at the bottom of the writing sea has taught me important lessons.  Every new project, I push myself to learn even more.

I have a really good feeling that I am finally going to be able to tell this story that has been several years in the making.

I also know that I have taken several side tangents to word vomit ideas that have been performing a highly complicated Scottish jig in my head.  They keep stamping their boots and brandishing their swords, and yelling to pay attention to them.  So I did.  I took everything I knew about them start to finish and vomited it onto a page.  Any tidbits of dialogue, scene, plot, description, in a doc it went.  3K words later and it’s no longer screaming its battle cry in my skull.  This I must say is a good practice.  Distracted by a shiny new idea, don’t push it aside.  Write it.  Not like a novel, but give it the word vomit treatment.  Let it exist outside of you.  Once it’s out there you have a much better chance of exhuming your daemons (unwanted inspirations for projects you aren’t working on now), and it’s there waiting for later, if later ever comes for it.

I used to let these float about in my brain and pick at them in moments where I was bored, driving, walking, not really doing anything, but being transient, between.  I would day dream, imagine worlds and possibilities.  But when I’m doing that for not the story I’m telling right now, well it’s a distraction. Purge, and leave in a word document.  It knows where it lives now.  (As a side note, after NaNoWriMo, I’m going to create a Scrivener document called the word vomit, so every time I had an idea, I can place it there, to page through later if needed).

A lot of NaNoWriMo advice focuses on not looking back.  To just pushing forward.  To that I say Pushaw!  Know yourself as a writer.  Know yourself as a human being.  I need my house to maintain a certain standard of clean.  I have done that messy draft just push forward, and I can personally tell you it was hell to clean that up after the fact.  Instead, I do allow myself that messy drafting, but I also allow myself time along the way to make changes as needed.  I will write a note to get back to it, when I have scheduled that time.  That time for me will be the Wednesdays’ I have booked off every day this month.  That will be the day I go back and I cut and clean, and tidy, and sweep up the draft so it looks good.  So it’s manageable.

I also, when stuck, will pick a character and write first person from them and just let them tell me all the things they want to.  How did they grow up, how are there friends, what are those friends like.  All of it.  It’s messy as all get out. It’s info dumping in its purest form, but now I have that information.  Now I can subtly insert it into my draft as needed later. I can use it to inform my character choices. Now, I’m not trying to hold all of the pieces to the puzzle in my head.  Trying to hold it all in my head, made me think the ideas where more precious than they actually where, like I was creating diamonds by exerting enough pressure on them.  Not all ideas are plot twists.  It’s okay to get them on paper.

And voila, a weird outline of sorts to use later.   Info dumping via characters POV is not a clean snowflake method outline that I would like, but it’s still something I can work with. It’s still technically following NaNo advice, while using it in a way that works for me.

That’s the thing with writing advice.  It comes at you with the best intentions, but they don’t know you as a person, so it’s up to you to filter through and used the tools that work best for you.  There is not harm in trying them out, and discarding them, or bending them for your own purposes.

What I do need you to know though, is that despite all my best efforts to have as clean a draft as possible, I will always have superfluous material.  Always.  This is normal and part of the craft.  Kill your darlings is true in this case.  Every word that comes out is not magic. Expect to have to purge, and stop bemoaning this when it happens. It’s not bad advice; it’s process.

Everything is awesome!!!

One of these days in a future far enough away it seems almost impossible, but close enough that I can’t quit this dream, neither Cowboy nor I will need a day job, because my day job will be writing, and that will support us both. Yes, that is my dream.  I know, it’s big and wild and crazy.  It’s almost impossible you say.  Except I know the stories I carry within myself, and I know the career paths of the authors I admire, and I think that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do it too.  If the chance is only maybe, it’s still a stone I have worn smooth in my pocket, as I worry over the future, and what ifs.

This year, has been a disappointment for both Cowboy and I in regards to day jobs. I continue to have one, YAY, but every time I interview for something else, I’m told not quite.  Cowboy has been laid off, and every time he has a job, something happens to the contract, that has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with politics in the mining sector between contract miners, and unionized companies.

So even though things have been challenging and super hard, we have made it through. We are making it through.  So even though last week he had a contract, that was cancelled before he could official start, I still think that this week is going to be an amazing week.

This week here are the things that are making me happy:

  1. My sister just came for a visit this weekend. It was great getting to hang out with her. I know she uses my place as a safe haven, a place to run away too, and I’m happy that I can be that for her. I know how much value there is in that, having that stability in your life.
  2. I went to go and see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children with my sister. And while she thought it was totally bizarre, in a confusing, and I’m not sure I will ever watch it again way, I thought it was totally bizarre, in a I am completely delighted by this, and can’t wait to read the book, because I’m an author, and it’s so awesome to see how these things are created and adapted.
  3. I had an amazing Kick Off party last night for NaNoWriMo at Scrabalatte. I wasn’t sure on the attendance, because the forums have been really quiet. However we have between 15 -20 people show up, and that delighted me to no end. We had a blast. Intro’s where 2 truths and 1 lie, which some of us weren’t allowed to play because we knew each other too well. And then we got into cards against humanity.
  4. I started knitting on some Christmas presents, and it is wee and also delights me to no end.
  5. Halloween is tonight and I ADORE giving out candy to little kids. I LOVE seeing all of their cute little costumes.
  6. NaNoWriMo starts tonight at midnight!!!!!! NaNoWriMo is my version of a writing vacation from my life. I take every Wednesday off in the month of November. I write instead of doing house work. It is all kinds of amazing and awesome.
  7. I’m going to go and see Doctor Strange with Cowboy late late on Thursday evening. Way past my bedtime because I have a write in earlier that evening. We were going to try and go on Friday, but Cowboy has band practice, and you know what, I don’t mind losing a little sleep to consume fiction and stories. I may not be a screenwriter, but story telling is my jam.
  8. Write in on Tuesday evening, at Starbucks!
  9. Write in online Thursday evening!
  10. Radio Show, and then write in on Saturday with typewriters.

 

November is my month. Despite everything so far this year, there have been some really great and amazing moments.  I won’t be buried by the bad.  I’m going to focus on what is awesome right now.

Canadian Girl Persona

It is both possible to be genuinely happy for someone, but also equally reminded of your own misfortune. This is a thing I have been struggling with this year, as I interviewed for positions and competed against people I genuinely liked and respected, and watched them be successful, and me not.  What I’ve realized, is that I am going to feel emotional and sad over my own situation, and it is okay to give myself the time and space to feel that way.  But I also need to not take that out on those around me.  So I do the polite thing that I have been taught to do and I say congratulations, even when I’m not feeling it.  Because I know later, I will feel happy for them.  I do know that deep down I do want them to succeed.  But sometimes it’s hard to see that for the grief we are feeling for ourselves.  So I pull out my Canadian girl persona, and I do the right thing now, even when it’s hard.

One of my favorite bloggers ever, the person who I learned what blogging was, the first ever blogger I ever followed, posted about her daughter being pregnant. The Yarn Harlot (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee), has always been open about her family life, with her family’s permission.  We know her daughters, or aspects of them through the blog.  And I can say I am genuinely happy for this moment for them.

And at the same time I read it and was eating my lunch, I was awash with emotion, my throat was clogged my eyes feeling soar because they were trying to produce tears I didn’t want to produce, I was no longer interested in my lunch. Because there I also sat, on the first day of my period, knowing that I myself am not pregnant after trying for 3+ years.

To be fair, we have sought professionals in this field and we know what’s going on, and what needs to be done. We know the good old fashion way is probably not going to work for us, and the odds are stacked against us.  We need to pay for a little bit of help.  Except that we can’t afford to right now.

Isn’t that the way of the world. Either you have the time, or you have the money, but you don’t have both.  And while we had the time to go for treatments earlier this year, we didn’t have the money for it, and I didn’t want to incur more credit card debt at the time, because there was no end in sight for how long we were going to be in the down swing.  I was stressed and it didn’t seem like a good time to be stressed and paying money to get pregnant.  Like hello money we can’t spare on a thing we want to have all the best chances on, and being stressed does not help those chances.

Now, things look to be like they might turn around, but we are going to spend some time playing catch up on the things we neglected during the down swing. We were in survival mode before, and now we will have a little more play room, but hubby is a contract miner.  That means sometimes things are good, but when there are no contracts things are tight.  We are a yoyo of good times and survival.  What I’m hoping is to get caught up, put money aside, and then pay for the thing, within a year from now.

So here is to hoping, that a year from now, things are a little brighter. That I have the money squirreled away.  That we have the time.  That things work out the way I’m hoping they do.  The way I want them to.

Because who has the time?

@GailSimone just went on a twitter rant I can get behind. Who has the time to write?

That’s the question we often face for those of us who make the time, and talk about our craft. Inevitably there is someone out there who is looking at their life, and doesn’t see all of the time they actually have.

Here is a myth I bought into, if I could just get everything sorted out I would have more time. If everything in my life where on track, it would be easy.

Except this year, my life imploded. You can haunt back through the archives of the blog and read the posts, and you can see it and feel it, where the spikes and lows are.

Here is another myth I bought into, that in grief I would find solace in writing. I would turn into a mad writer, who created brilliant work.

This too is not true.   Both of those myths are a fallacy. Neither of them make writing easier or a thing that is more obtainable.  I’ve had things far easier, and wrote, and I’ve had things be tough, and wrote.

This year felt very much like my life imploding. I threw myself at my writing like it was a life preserver on a stormy sea.  Every time things got hard, I looked for solace in the one area that was still mine and belonged to me. I focused on my long term goals.

That doesn’t mean that it was easy.  It was fucking hard.

Writing when life is hard, is fucking tough. They romanticize what J.K. Rowling went through, in a few lines, a summary.  But the truth, sitting in those trenches, and those emotions tearing down around you like bullets you have no control over, and all you want to do is get to the other side.  But what you need to do is tune the sound of gunfire out, lower your head, and focus, and tunnel your way out, one word at a time.

Eventually I learned how to channel that gunfire. Those feelings of hopelessness, I wrote them into my novel. I gifted them to my character.  Sounds romantic, sounds easy.  It wasn’t.  It was anything but.  But I did it.

I threw myself at my novel, teeth bared, and got through it with stubborn determination.

This year, has been hard. But at the end of it, I have my novel.  I have this thing, I did all for myself.  And I am so fucking proud of myself.

So when someone uses how hard there life is, or that they don’t have the time as the reason they don’t write, I know, that it is partly those things. That they can’t see their way through them.   But I also know that underneath all of that, they don’t want it the same way.  They don’t have that desperate yearning for change, and control in their life.

Time is precious, and we get caught in the loop of spending it halfheartedly. We watch TV we don’t need to, scroll through endless amounts of Facebook, or whatever internet distraction.  We fill our lives with distractions.  I know, I’ve done it.  I still do it.  But when you’re really focused, you put all of those things aside, and your writing comes first.  That’s how you do it.  You put aside the meaningless, you make sacrifices, you rearrange.  You find the time.

I went to an author event, and it turned out that most of them where sorted into Slytherin. Maggie Stiefvater who I adore is a proud declarant of house Slytherin. I’ve always had a sort of aversion to house Slytherin because of the bad rep they received in the books/movies.  But then when I took my sorting had quiz the second time around, and every other quiz since then, I am house Slytherin.

Per the sorting hat:

“Those cunning folk use any means, to achieve their ends”

And that right there is what you need to be a writer. You have to have a lot of stubborn determination, and some Slytherin in you, to make it across that finish line.

It’s not about having the time, it’s about having the want.

And now for a time of healing….

I have read hundreds of blog posts by authors and agents.  So I know the logical mechanics of what comes next after you write a book.

  • You make edits.
  • You get feedback.
  • You make more edits.
  • You get more feedback.
  • You make even more edits.
  • Eventually you decide that if is as shiny as can be.

Once it’s as shiny as it can be you then start querying agents. And this step isn’t as easy as you think.

  • You have to find the agents you want to query.
  • You have to follow their guidelines.
  • And you have to keep doing this until someone likes your stuff.
  • And it might not be the right time for this project, so even though it’s as shiny as it can be, it might just not make it to landing you an agent.

And in the mean time you keep writing.  You keep writing.  You keep creating.  You keep pushing yourself. Because you are going to keep going until you land an agent. And you keep going after that until your career looks like what you have imagined, because you are not a quitter, and you have poured too much handwork and determination into this.  Those words, handwork and determination, feel so small compared to what you have done.  You have bled, and chipped off pieces of your soul.  You have sacrificed in the face of fear.  You are a warrior, who wields a pen instead of a sword.

But what no one talks about in depth, are the feelings you are going to have along the way.

Going into this past weekend I was excited.  I KNEW I could finish the project this weekend, and I was very excited about that possibility.  And yet, on Sunday night, when I did finish it, what I felt was ragged.  I felt emotionally flayed.

I proceeded to sit there in shock.  I sent out a tweet.  My husband came home, and I looked up at him and told him I finished the book.  He said something, I don’t know what, and I told him I was just sitting there having all of the feels.  A sentence I am thankful for having taught him, because he promptly new exactly what I needed. He folded me in his arms and held me, and our dogs pilled on top to snuggle.  I really, really, really needed to be held.

The next day I told more people still, waiting for the shock to wear off, and yet, I was still in this state of I did the thing.  Of incredulity.

The journey to finishing this book has been a hard one considering the turns that life has taken this past year.  It has not been easy, and yet I’ve learned to get through.  And what got me through was my writing.  I would shore myself up, and push myself at my writing, because it was the only thing I could control.

But now that I have finished it, I am bereft.  I feel like I am a ship without moor.

Logically I know the next steps.  I know them.  And yet I sit here empty.

How do I start over again at the beginning of this journey?  How do I start from nothing and work my way back… or is it forward??? to this point again.  Especially, knowing what I went through to get here.

We don’t always talk about feelings because they are messy things.  We write about them in our books yes, but our own, we keep in a fortress of solitude.  Lest we be hurt.  Lest we be judged.  It’s easier if we all put on the armour and pretend like everything is okay, even when it’s not, because that is what the inspirational posters tell us to do.  Tell us who we should be.  Those posters, say keep on climbing.  You can’t get to the top if you don’t keep on keeping on. And smile for the privilege of this challenge.  So we pretend untruths.

I’m going to tell you that’s it’s okay if you don’t feel how you think you should feel.  It’s okay if you aren’t jump up and down and happy.  It’s okay to come crashing to a halt, and need some time to get your feet back on the ground and come to terms with that incredible mountain you just climbed. It’s okay to look upon that mountain in shock and awe, and wonder what is next, and feel this gaping void inside of you.  It’s okay to fill that void with mindless distractions because you can’t stand to stare at the bigger questions right now, your still too fresh, too raw.

A lot of people will ask what’s next, and they mean the best buy it.  They will say congratulations and be jubilant, and you want to be jubilant too, but you’re not.  You’ll look at those next steps, and you will know them logically, much the same way you know how to walk, one foot in front of the other.  Knowing the mechanics, doesn’t mean you have to race out right now and perform those mechanics.

No one said it. Or if they did I don’t remember it.  Maybe it is an unspoken truth.  But I’m here to speak it.  This process of grief is normal.  You have poured so much of yourself into the thing, it is okay to feel loss.  It’s okay to be devastated.  Give yourself time, you will heal.

You’ll find the things that pull you through. It might be a good book, or a conversation with a close friend, and little by little you will come out of that shell shocked state.

But I want you to know, that your feelings are valid.  It’s okay to take time to feel them.

All the feels…

You know how you can have moments in your life where you want to hold onto them and keep them inside of you like a special secret that belongs only to you, and at the same time you want to shout it from the rooftops. That’s me.  Right now.

I did it.

I finished a novel.

Draft zero was a hot mess of disorganization, and overwriting, and underwriting, and large plot holes you could lose yourself in. Editing that into the first draft, into a coherent whole, that someone else could look at.  That’s where it took the most time, the most determination.  I’m good at making draft zeros.  I have lots of those skeletons in my closet.  Hot messes who deserve more, but that I can’t give more to at this time.

But this is the first draft one. The first draft one where I have cut out the bits that don’t work.  Where I have filled in the blanks.  Where I have a cohesive storyline from start to finish.   All of those words sound so mechanical, for the heavy lifting that was done.

This draft was like solving a complex math problem, with logic and poetry.

Guys, I did the thing.

I fucking did it.

More thoughts later….

I’m still in shock.