Last summer, I began writing a manuscript for a fantasy novel. I won’t divulge too many details about the plot right now, but the story takes place in a world separate from our own (which makes it more like The Hobbit than Harry Potter). I was really excited about working on it because I believed the story had enough twists and quirks to make it a refreshing entry into the genre. The mere act of writing was also interesting to me, because it was the first time that I really made a strong attempt to write an entire novel. For better or worse, I was adamant that I would finish the book.
Unfortunately, summer ended and classes returned before I was completed; I was only 50,000 words into the manuscript and I would not have time to finish it for months. Frustrated, I tucked the story away and hoped for the best. I didn’t want to lose interest in the project, having come so far, and if I did complete it, I didn’t want there to be a big stylistic difference between the first 50,000 words and the remaining 30,000. The anxiety of finishing the story was enough that I didn’t even start immediately when school ended this April. I not only had a lot of writing to do, but I wanted to revise about half of the chapters that I did write before. I was worried that if I started again, I would fail again to finish the manuscript by the end of summer.
Then, about a week ago, I dusted off my manuscript file and went to work. I revised first to immerse myself in the story once again, and because I wouldn’t be confident in writing new chapters until my previous ones were in order. Of course, because I had to reorganize some story sections, there was a lot of writing to be done in the midst of revision anyway. I had a productive first day, having revised about 40 or 50 pages of text, and realized several things:
I don’t hate my writing. This is a phrase that all writers should repeat to themselves about a hundred times a day. If you’re writing a story, you’re not going to know if it’s good or not the first time through. More importantly: it’s probably not good. Every great book you’ve ever read was once a badly written first draft, and its current greatness only exists because the writer kept editing (“Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott is a good essay about how you can’t expect the first draft to be good). Anyway, upon re-reading the beginning of my book, I found out that there was something good there that’s worth writing (and reading) behind the mistakes. Plus, I made it better by fixing the problems.
I missed my characters. When I put my manuscript away at the end of last summer, I didn’t just set my story aside. I let the fates of all my characters just hang there, waiting for resolution. As I read, the story made me care about the characters again and now I want them to succeed just as much as I want myself to succeed. That’s another reason I’m more confident in my skills: at some point, interesting characters formed from the assortment of words I chose. I owe it to them and myself to continue.
I can do this. When you’re a writer, having belief in your own abilities can make the work easier, and reading the beginning of my book again definitely restored my faith in my writing. I not only mean that I have the ability to finish the manuscript, but I also believe that I can complete it before the summer ends. It’s hard to say how long the finished novel will be, but if I write a thousand words a day or so, it shouldn’t take long for me to finish the book.
I think I finally reached a point where I feel like a writer and I’m still riding the positivity that I received when I started working again. I believe everyone can feel good about their own writing if they push themselves and try hard enough. Of course, I haven’t been published yet, so perhaps my excitement is a bit premature.
Do you write, or have you ever had a dream about being a writer? If you do write, how do you push yourself to keep going when the work is difficult? Are you overly critical about your first drafts? Do you find the act of revising annoying? Let me know what you think below.