When Writing is A Battle
I’m in high school and trying to think of a book idea.
I’d played around with novels in the past and always said I wanted to be an author, but I wanted to sit down and really do it. I mean… I was fourteen years old for crying out loud. SE Hinton had her first book written when she was 15 and published when she was 18. Clearly, I had to get going.
There was the age old advice of “write what you know” and I always rolled my eyes at it. What I knew was so boring. Until my sister points out “you know the story of Snow White better than anyone. Why don’t you just write about that?”
Well… now there’s an idea.
It’s a few years post college and I have an incredibly rough draft complete of this old idea about Snow White I once had.
Having put my writing aspirations aside as a hobby and only participating in NaNoWriMo and toying with edits in exchange for focusing on a different career path, I realize I’m tired of keeping my writing on the side. I have so many other ideas. More characters and worlds to explore. I can’t not write anymore.
But… this book is not good.
For someone who played around with it periodically in high school in college it’s just fine. As an actual publishable novel? Not at all.
And I’m okay with this.
I set the book aside and work on something brand new.
It’s a couple years later.
I’ve completed and revised a book and queried it out to agents. Nothing happened with it. While I’m sad and disappointed, as I look through the manuscript I know there’s so much work to be done on it and to be frank - there wasn’t a market for this genre at the moment. Maybe I can return to it someday.
Yet, I don’t have anything else to work on.
As I sit in my living room watching TV an idea hits me like a lightning bolt. It has to do with Snow White. But… different.
No. NO WAY. I can’t go back to my terrible terrible book from high school. BAD IDEA.
The same skeleton of the Snow White tale is there (obviously) and the same with the love interest. Yet… there’s more. A completely new turn. A new story. Sure, use the same character names if they still work. But this isn’t just revising a terrible old draft. It’s something new.
It’s August of 2018 and there’s two weeks to go until the PitchWars deadline.
My Snow White novel isn’t complete. It’s close, but, there’s so many more words to write than I’m used to in such a short period of time.
Yet… maybe I could do it.
Would it be hard?
Is it possible though? Am I crazy enough to go for it?
I set a schedule for myself where I wake up early each morning before my 7am clock in time for work. When I get home, I write even more. Sometimes from the moment I get home to the moment I go to bed only to start it all over again the next morning. I cancel plans with friends and have to back out of meetings. I talk to my supervisor about my goal and they’re kind enough to let me leave early the day before my deadline and have the whole next day off so I can get it done.
With a few hours to spare - the book is done. The last half isn’t perfect. The last quarter is a hot mess. But it’s done. I’m completely and utterly exhausted and I never want to look at a computer screen ever again. I also have never been more proud of myself regardless of the outcome.
It’s April 2019 and I’m still revising.
I didn’t get picked for PitchWars - but I later learned I did get attention. Someone helps guide me through how to revise. I read a book about plotting. I outline, write and edit, reoutline then rewrite and reedit. I get started, then there’s times for weeks I can barely look at the page.
Each time I have a break through a roadblock appears. Even if it’s just one I’ve created in my own head. I think I have it all though through then when I go to write my mind completely blanks out.
I’ve cut so many words and added even more words only to have them cut again.
I know this is how the revision process goes, but it doesn’t feel like I’m making any. I know it’s being made, but my heart won’t accept this fact.
Other novel ideas are floating around in my head and it’s so tempting to just say “well… I tried that time for something else.” I want to dig through those stories and characters. I want to take all that I’ve learned and maybe, just maybe, this time around it’ll be better.
It’ll be easier.
But if I stopped one book and started a new one every time it got hard I would never have anything complete. So, I keep going.
Then I doubt myself. “What if this wasn’t such a brilliant idea in the first place? What if there isn’t really anything to salvage out of this? Do I really want to waste my time on a book that’s never going to be great? Maybe you were never meant to publish a book. You’ve been talking about this literally your entire life and you still can’t even get revisions on this one book done.”
There’s a literary agent/writer I follow on Twitter, Eric Smith, and he tweeted several weeks ago “The book of your heart is worth fighting for.”
In case you're a writer who needs to hear this...— Eric Smith (@ericsmithrocks) March 16, 2019
The book of your heart is worth fighting for.
Is this Snow White novel the book of my heart? It might be. Although, I wonder if there is even a single “book of your heart.” I think you might have a few. They all just each explore a different part of your heart. I think this book is one of the books of my heart.
I keep trying to remind myself that if this is the case, it’s worth the fight and the battle. The days of self-doubt and frustration. All of it will be worth it.
Maybe I should shoot for only 100 words a day. Even if it’s not much progress, it’s at least something on days when my brain can’t work any more. Maybe I should set another hard and fast goal to force myself to get it done and stop making excuses. Maybe if I make one more outline it’ll work itself out.
Yet… it’s still not done.
Why isn’t it done?
I know I don’t have a timeline and I can’t compare myself to the routines of other people because every has their own process. In spite of knowing this, I can’t help but keep asking myself “Why can’t I just figure it out and get it done?”
There’s something that’s going to be special and unique about this book. There has to be. Something in me says to keep going and keep digging through the muck and I’ll find something special. For some reason, it’s not coming out yet.
I know writing and revising is hard. Most of us writers know this. But when we’re actually in the middle of it, we (or at least I) start to wonder “Is it supposed to be this hard?”
The book of your heart is worth fighting for.
So, I’m trying. And I’m fighting. Even if I don’t hit my word count goal each day. Even if end up deleting all of the scenes that I’ve already written and I have to start some of them (or all of them) over. Camp NaNoWriMo and spring arriving with it’s sunshine helps. Talking with other writers and my CPs helps. But it’s hard right now. It’s been hard for several months now.
But I can’t stop fighting for this book.
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