I have to admit, this week is super special for me because a couple years ago, I learned that one of my cousins is ALSO a writer. Before you judge me too harshly for not knowing this about a cousin, let me explain. There are lots of cousins in the family and I’m older than all of them (on one side and most on the other). By not an insignificant margin. The side that this particular cousin comes from, it’s my older sister, me, my younger brother, a gap of about 5 years, and then 13 more cousins came in the next 8 years. So, I was something like 8 years old when my next OLDEST cousin was born.
And this particular cousin? Well, she’s one of the youngest. In fact, she is EXACTLY half my age this year. And since she’s still a minor, I’m keeping her last name to myself, but with the zerg of family comments SURE to bombard this particular post, the cat might get out of the bag. Hmmm… have to keep the fam away. Yeah right!
ANYWAY, as we all sat around her parent’s living room that Thanksgiving, I was so stoked to learn that she IS a writer. I had wanted to talk all kinds of writery things with her, but as family functions go, I naturally had to take care of my kids and their eating and peeing and pooping habits and I’m social but still pretty introverted and I overthink conversations and before we knew it, my kids were near melting point and we had to JET. So much for getting to talk writing.
So when I was talking to my husband about this series, he asked “Are you going to ask Megan to write then, too?”
“OF COURSE!” and I skittered off to IG to message her because I guess the kids these days aren’t into facebook or whatever and I’m too old and ornery to learn all the new social medias.
Anyway, I wish I was this wise when I was her age. I’m pretty sure I worried about my cross country meet or what I was going to eat next (because HELLO! always hungry!) and certainly wasn’t pondering the finer arts of actually writing something.
And Megan, you’ve got a GREAT start. I bet you’ll be writing bestsellers in no time at all. And by no time at all, I mean probably when you’re my age. HA!
Even though getting a novel published has always been a dream of mine, I haven’t seriously tried to achieve that goal yet. I want to applaud every single person out there that has (or will) publish a novel, because it’s a lot harder than most people think.
I get random moments of inspiration for a story, and I (usually) drop whatever I’m doing and write down the fragments of a plotline that flake off, hoping to someday mold and shape them into a bestselling novel. I’m super pumped for about a day or two as I give my characters names, flaws, a plot, and hopefully a dazzling ending. I’ve been getting to the point of planning chapter by chapter, writing out exactly what’s going to happen so I won’t forget and I can keep the story flowing when I actually get around to writing.
Then, when I’ve ran out of things to plan, I take a deep breath and start writing. BAM. My inspiration is gone. The words look like meaningless sludge on the page, and I wonder why I ever thought I could do something as big as write a novel. I think this is the point where most people quit if they’re going to quit.
Sometimes that drain of inspiration happens later, and I’m actually able to finish a first draft of my story. However short it is, I’m always pleased I got the entire thing down on paper before finishing. Then, I let the work cool down for a while. How my life goes, it’s about a year before I come back to it, ready to tackle a second draft.
When that time comes, I get excited again. I read through the first draft, shaking my head and making a face of disgust the entire time. Then another few days goes by as I pull out a notebook, uncap a pen, and plan the story over again. The characters and the general idea usually stays the same, but the plot changes, filling in holes I didn’t even know were there before. After I’ve planned all I could again, I try to write the second draft.
Notice I said try to write the second draft. The truth is, I haven’t been able to muster up enough inspiration and willpower to go through the writing process a complete second time. Right at this very moment I have three stories sitting on the backburner: one draft done, a second draft about 15-20 pages in. I get a few pages in, sure, But then I look at my writing and realize: it looks the same as the first draft. Nothing’s really changed except for the words. The ideas are still dry and the plot flat.
In my mind, I always stay calm when my writing is not as good as I want it to be in the first draft. I think, ‘sure, this may be bad now, but I’ll fix it in the second draft.’ When I get to the second draft and try to make a dull moment sound more interesting or a description feel more real, it just doesn’t happen like I want it to. I hope I’m not the only person out there to have this problem.
Okay. After ranting about that, I do think there are a few things I could change when going about this process the next time.
Planning is very important for me, although I know there are writers that like to ‘go where their characters take them.’ Fine. Do whatever works the best for you. For me, the planning process is when I get the most excited about my story. It’s when I think about my novel as a story, not as words on a page. It’s a thrilling experience to watch the plot develop and the relationships blossom in my mind hopefully as they will on the page.
While I’m in the planning process, I want to write down one thing in the front of my notebook: reasons for writing this story. I can pour out my hopes and dreams for my story there, putting my inspiration into words to hopefully propel me forward when the words get stuck on page 20. There was an initial reason for the excitement for writing that story, whatever it was, and it’s important to capture that before it’s gone. Going back to read the reasons I chose to write this book in the first place hopefully will help.
Also, it’s good to remember that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect, even the second time around. The best way to get better at writing is to, you guessed it, write! It may take time, effort, and 13 drafts, but your story will get better. I promise.
You have to love your own story and be excited about it the whole way through, because if you don’t love every inch of it and aren’t excited about it, how will you expect your readers to be?
I’ll be rooting for you in your future writing, and I hope you’ll root for me! Stay inspired!