Or had it?
I didn’t immediately start converting Idea 2.3 in Novel #2. Rather (and rather ironically as well), I found that all the research I’d been doing for this new idea had actually helped me figure out how to fix Novel #1.
So, I started a fourth writing journal file devoted to Novel #1, entitling the file “Novel #1 Redux”, and got to work pulling all three instalments of the planned trilogy apart and piecing together a brand new outline.
I would have thought that after three long years, changing a single sentence would have left me dissolved into tears. But instead, the feeling was almost liberating – this novel didn’t rule me; I was the one in charge. As Cat Stevens (and lately Sheryl Crow) said, “The first cut is the deepest”, and even that didn’t hurt too badly – not if it was going to make my novel better.
And so, I changed concepts. I slashed subplots. I devised a complete change of setting. I deleted characters. I modified character motivations, character histories, character interactions. I strengthened my theme. I streamlined events as they unfolded.
It was awesome.
While doing all this, I played around with Novel #2’s hook and did a fair bit of pre-writing for this new story: world-building, character resumes, draft world map, timeline of events, modifications to the story outline, etc.
(In other words, all the stuff my previous obsession to just..keep…going had prevented me from doing before commencing my first novel, thus repeatedly causing me to halt and delay progress while trying to figure that stuff out along the way.)
Overall, though, I remained devoted to the redux outline of Novel #1. I was determined to see it through.
Finally, in mid-May 2005, my new and improved outline for Novel #1 was finished. Novel #1 and I could now part on amiable terms since, even if I wanted to start in on Novel #1 Redux right away, I’d still require at least a month of distance from it so I could look at with fresh eyes.
I was now free to pursue Novel #2 without guilt.
Only, I didn’t.
Partly, this was because I still had a bit more pre-writing to do. But mainly, it was because I was afraid. After dreaming about this new project for so long, what if I couldn’t do it justice? What if another three years went by, and I still had nothing I felt confident in trying to publish?
I wallowed in these doubts for a whole month until finally – finally – I gave myself a mental shake. “You’re miserable when you’re not writing,” I told myself. “You’re starting this thing tonight!”
That was on June 20, 2005 – exactly nine months, I’ve since discovered, from the day I started the writing journal devoted solely to novel Idea 2.3.
Coincidence? I think not. (Though, yes, I do heed the wisdom to the contrary in the matter of such an analogy.)
Novel #2, once commenced, continued to progress really well, for all that I once again worried it too might be longer than I desired once the first draft was complete. It was a two-theme epic romantic fantasy set in a quasi-medieval setting. I worked on my WIP faithfully every night, although now writing solely at night (save the odd simple correction to the previous night’s words) instead of here and there in the daytime during meals and at bedtime to help keep obsession at bay.
Discipline, I’d come to learn, is a writer’s key to success, not obsession.
My nightly writing goal was 700 words, the shortfall and surplus of which I tallied in an Excel spreadsheet to keep a longer-term record of my progress. I also allow myself four nights a month during which I could either take a break from writing altogether or else just write a tiny bit and not include the shortfall in the overall progress.
I was unemployed at the time and thus able to stay up as late as I could keep my eyes open to hit or surpass my 700-word target. Just before Christmas of 2005, I had a net surplus of over 7500 words.
But then I got a job that required me to move four hours away to a rural community. I was all too happy to go; after a year-and-a-half of fruitless job searching, I was ready for the increase in both my finances and my self-esteem that a return to the workforce would offer me. And so I packed my bags, kissed my mother goodbye, and off I went.
Upon arriving, I told myself it would be best to take a short break from writing, just until I’d had a chance to settle into my new job and home, and establish myself socially.
That “break” lasted six years.
At this penultimate point in my writing journey, we are perhaps at the stage called Refusal to Return, in which the hero(ine), having succeeded in the trials and surmounted the obstacles of the journey, wants to bask in the glory of a job well done. Or to misquote Ryan Dunlavey’s fantastic graphic representation of the Hero’s Journey, “Normal writing life is for suckers!”
Fear not, though, the final post in this series will see our heroine take the Magic Flight and undergo the Crossing of the Return Threshold, utterly changed by her journey. But in the meantime, I am curious: where are other people in their own writing journeys? How many others have written a first novel that now dwells in the proverbial bottom drawer, never to see the light of day again? Or do you have hopes of someday resurrecting it, like I do with mine? Consider leaving a comment.