On many websites and blogs, you can find information about what to do while you are writing a novel. These gives you tips on best practices and styles and practices to avoid. You can even find blogs on what to do with your work once you have finished writing it. It is as easy to find as it is to type the word ‘novel’. One aspect I find is harder to find is candid conversations about what one goes through while writing their novels and of what happens after.
I won’t give anyone a lecture on how to do a novel. Whatever you have in mind is right for you and nothing I will say will ever change that. What I can speak about is my experiences with my own in hopes that you can relate to the emotions I went through. Call these reflections on writing that I will impart to the internet at large in hopes that it will comfort someone else in similar shoes to what I had worn. Don’t worry. I didn’t wear the shoes out.
Reflection 1: Don’t Look Back? Well…
You ever see that one movie where they are all walking across a deep ravine on nothing but a thin board to hold them up. There is always that one person that says ‘don’t look down.’ Immediately after, the protagonist does exactly what he was told not to and regrets ever doing so. You get this as you are writing. Except, it’s ‘don’t look back’.
When you hear the expression ‘don’t look back’, this is in relation to writing itself. When you are writing something as prolific in length as a novel, you don’t look back so you can continue writing forward and finish it. I’m here to tell you that even if you hear ‘don’t look back’, that you will look back upon your writing and you will regret the words you wrote. I did. It became increasingly hard every day I sat down to write to not look back at the words I wrote the previous few days and want to work on it. I ended up getting a notepad to jot down my frustrations in what I’d see to fix later so I could continue on with that days work. It was the only way I could get through the writing session. I won’t deny that it’s painfully hard to do, but I will tell you that you can do it. Look back, but don’t stay back. Keep moving forward. You can always go back once you’ve finished and edit a finished novel rather than perpetually work on a piece that is never finished.
Reflection 2: It’s ok to celebrate what you’ve accomplished.
I had a glass of wine the first time I wrote over 5000 words in one day. I asked to be taken out to dinner by my partner when I hit 25,000 words. I was treating 10k milestones like anniversaries, and I took entire days off for my birthday, for holidays, for sick days. And in doing this, I managed to finish my first draft in two months.
Burnout is a very real thing that can happen to a person that is constantly writing. In the moment, you get so caught up in wanting to charge forward that you will find yourself trying to push yourself to your creative limits. I’m here to tell you, it’s ok to take it easy. In fact, it’s better for your creativity to let yourself have fun and to celebrate the little things. You don’t have to go as overboard as I had, but a me day while writing, even a me hour is well worth it. Your brain will thank you with more beautiful words.
Reflection 3: When did my novel become a term paper?
While going through college, when it came to writing papers, I’d often go through phases. There is the brainstorming phrase, the outline of the thesis statement and body of the paper, the research for it, and then the rough draft. That is exactly how I approached writing my novel. I brainstormed plot ideas and characters I wanted to tell a story of. When I had an idea, I constructed an outline with major scenes I wanted to touch on and why they were important to my story. I then researched the topics of the story I needed more knowledge on and took all the notations I needed for it. Then… I sat down with all my tools and I wrote, consulting all that I had when I needed them. That outline did change along the way. My term papers did too! Every change was not devastating to my creative flow because I took the time to build up what I was working on. This made it easy for me to handle sudden creative changes. It was so easy, often times I’d doubt myself for changing so quickly! I owe my thanks to all those papers I wrote in college. While I may not use the subject matter, the practice helped my anxiety greatly. It might help yours as well.
Reflection 4: It’s ok to cry when you’re done writing, and to be scared.
I did. I cried when I finished my novel. I sat at my desk, staring at my screen trying to think of something… ANYTHING new to write. I was in a state of shock. It brought me to tears. Not the soft sniffling either, mind you. I was full on crocodile tear filled ugly cried over my novel. Once my partner calmed me down, we decided a vacation from my novel was in order. I took a two week break from it. I cried a bit more about it. I also realized how terrified I was. That was why I cried. I was scared of publishing.
I do want to publish. That was not the fear. I had come to a place that I have spent decades dreaming of. I had a finished novel to work on. When it is done, it will be given out to the world to view. For the first time in my life, something I spent so much time and energy into… would not be mine anymore. It would belong to the world. I may have created my novel, but the way it will impact others is all their own. I can’t ever claim that. It was like I was a mother watching their first born child leave for college for the first time. That life you raised for decades was now out of your hands. You feel lost without it and scared for it. Will it get along with others? How will you defend it from bullies? I had to come to the realization that I couldn’t always protect my novel, but that is ok. Novels need room to grow too. If you finish yours and feel scared for what your novel is to be to others. You’re not the only one. We are all scared if anyone will even like our work. Someone will. It will all be ok.