My Writing Journey, pt. 2

Continued from Part 1:

In early 2002, a professional editor of a fantasy magazine told me my writing was good.  I would have married the guy if I could.

No nuptials were forthcoming.  However with that compliment ringing in my mind, along with the one from my writing teacher back in 1996, plus a growing dissatisfaction with writing short fiction, I felt braced up enough to try my hand at writing a full-length novel.

Once again demonstrating my penchant for taking it slow and easy when starting a new pursuit, I came up with a super high-concept, fate-of-the-world-hangs-in-the-balance, cast-of-thousands sort of fantasy tale.  A highly original one, in my opinion; one in which the consequences for the main characters failing to achieve their goal was quite different than anything I’d read within the fantasy genre to date.

But still – not a simple tale upon which to gently learn the art of novel-writing.

One might think that with the simultaneous work I was doing on my Master of Environmental Studies thesis, the computer would be the last place I’d choose to spend my leisure time, but such was not the case.  I worked on that novel during my every free moment.  I’d write about employing ecological restoration and environmentally-informed design principles within suburban neighbourhood parks by day, and about the characters who’d become as close and as important to me as my own family at night…

One might think that with the simultaneous work I was doing on my Master of Environmental Studies thesis, the computer would be the last place I’d choose to spend my leisure time, but such was not the case.  I worked on that novel during my every free moment.  I’d write about employing ecological restoration and environmentally-informed design principles within suburban neighbourhood parks by day, and about the characters who’d become as close and as important to me as my own family at night…

…as well as while eating breakfast, lunch, and supper, while taking breaks from my thesis, while I should have been doing work for the professor who’d hired me as his research assistant, while I should have been in bed sleeping….  I thought about it non-stop.  I decorated the entire perimeter of my monitor with yellow Post-It notes on how the latest scene I was working on would unfold.  I kept a notepad by my bed to jot down ideas that occurred to me at night.  During my most productive period of months working on that novel, I’d regularly crank out over 1700 words a day, if not more, which, for me, is impressive as hell.

I knew I was obsessed – that I was suffering a textbook case of Obsessive Writer’s Disorder – but I couldn’t help myself.  It’s a wonder I didn’t burn the creative writing cells right out of my head.

I continued to work on that novel for three years.  Three years, two computers, three operating systems, three versions of WordPerfect (my word-processing software of choice, even still), four different changes of address, three separate electronic writing journal documents (by October 2004, I’d journaled more than 450 single-spaced typed pages), and an indeterminate number of hours of fun, diversion, worry, stress, daydreaming, playacting, and learning.

Thankfully, upon the successful completion of my thesis and my entrance to the work force, the pathological pace of my progress diminished, however all told, I wrote over 900 manuscript pages.  I am not exaggerating.  This novel was a Big Fat Fantasy in every sense of the word … and it wasn’t even finished yet. (Nor was it a standalone story, for as all fantasy writers know, good things come in threes.)

But something was wrong.  Writing stopping being fun and started to become a chore.  I kept finding excuses to not write, and whenever I did bite the bullet and sit down to work, I’d manage little more than 300 words a night, and often less.  Over and over I kept asking myself what the problem was: Did I no longer care about my characters?  No.  Had I lost the drive to someday be published?  No.  Did I think my story sucked?

I came closest to the truth with that last one.  In late 2004, I had a revelation: while I loved the themes I was tackling in my novel, the overall execution left quite a bit to be desired.  I had the following two thoughts, in the following order:

I don’t think I achieved good integration of all the characters’ individual plots.

And,

This novel is getting to be awfully long.

A real light bulb moment, that second one.

To be continued….

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3 thoughts on “My Writing Journey, pt. 2

  1. you really need to invest in a trash can 🙂

    i’m just teasing – thanks for following 5R
    nice to meet you, Janna, through your creative space here.

    David in Maine USA

    Like

    • >you really need to invest in a trash can
      You’d better believe it! That, and maybe take up haiku. 🙂
      Although I do believe there is a kernel of greatness somewhere in that story, buried amongst the 900 pages. It may only be three lines long, but it does exist, and someday, I will go in there and set it free.

      Like

      • send me a copy of the Haiku, when you find it – it will be highly appreciated

        Janna, nice to meet you!

        don’t forget that trash can 🙂

        Like

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