So I'm writing a novel

Sunday, February 17, 2013

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“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are going through it now or you're just getting out of that phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” -IRA GLASS
I was a nieve thirteen year old. I thought I had the best ideas. I thought I knew all the answers. I thought I was an amazing writer. When I read this quote (above) two years ago, I thought "oh, cool. I'm just getting out of that stage!" Sorry to break it to you, thirteen year old Megan, but no, you were not.

In 2011, after I had only drafted one novel (which was poorly written and horribly plotted), I got this idea for a new novel. And I was like convinced that it was the best idea ever. People kept telling me that it was such a cool idea and I was like "yeah, I'm awesome!" In the first couple weeks that I got this "great" idea, I wrote somewhere around six chapters. I sent some of it to a blogger I knew and asked what she thought. You can imaging how shocked I was when she emailed me back and encouraged me to make some changes and rewrite because the characters were too perfect and the plot was confusing. I was upset about it for a while...until I realized that she was right.

So I started over from the beginning. I started learning about writing. I read loads of books. I decided to make sure the plot for this novel was completely lined out before I tried writing. I did extensive work on the characters, making sure they weren't shallow, perfect, or unbelievable. I wanted this novel to be perfect, because it was still the best idea I'd ever gotten. I kept rewriting the first chapter over and over because I kept finding flaws in it. And I just couldn't get past the first chapter. I honestly wasn't the best at writing (I'm still not), and it was frustrating me that I didn't have enough experience to write the novel I wanted to. So I put away my folder full of ideas, notes, and plot lines and said that I'd take it out again when I was older and a better writer. I started writing other novels. But I really didn't want to write them. I couldn't write the novel I wanted to write, though, because I felt like I was wasting my one good idea on my horrible writing skills. So I kept taking these huge breaks from writing.

You know those late nights were you get a crazy idea, convince yourself that it's amazing, but by morning you're laughing at yourself because it's actually the stupidest idea on the planet? I had like a two year long night where I believed this idea was the most amazing idea ever and I was never going to get another one like it. And recently, I haven't decided that it's stupid, but I have realized that it's not the only good idea I'm ever going to get.

Sometimes I feel like I'm only ever going to get one good idea and I burn myself out because I feel like I'm not good enough to do the idea justice. So I don't work on it. I do nothing. [there's a really good video by MeekaKitty on this here.] But the truth is that I'm not only going to get one good idea. I can write this story and if it's not the best thing in the world, that's okay, because I'm growing. And if I'm growing, that means the next thing I do will be a little bit better than the last one. Because when I'm afraid to write something because I don't feel like I'm good enough, I'm just going to get stuck because I want to write it, but I can't. I can't come up with anything else and I can't work on anything else, because I'm stuck on this one idea. I just need to write the story I want to write and not worry about if it's perfect or not. I can edit and rewrite as many times as I want, but I just need to get the first draft done.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm writing a novel. And I'll maybe (probably? possibly? (i.e. this is a really big maybe)) self e-publish it when I'm done. And it's actually like 5 novels.

-Megan

20 comments:

  1. I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOUR BOOK. I REALLY, REALLY AM.
    also, the fact that you referenced MeekaKitty made my life.
    also you are cool and have awesome ideas.

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    1. MeekaKitty is the highlight of my life, how could I not?

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  2. Hmhm, yep, right here with you. I feel like I get pretty cool ideas every now and then, but I leave them where they first came. I leave them just ideas. Because I try and fail multiple times at writing them or extending them into a novel size or smoothing them up or just generally making them into a readable story that isn't entirely cliche and dumb. I have a tendency of over-analyzing and over-thinking to the point that I end up making something cool into something cheesy. I spend too much time on one thing until I don't even know what I wanted that to be anymore, I focus too much on making the first sentence/chapter perfect, I plot my characters too much and un-plot my plot too less. I work so much on it and come out with so little that I get frustrated, and I lock the idea and story and characters and writing away, only to be pulled out months later, over-analyzed again, and locked once more into the dungeon of self pitying unwritten novels. And then I start over and do it again with another idea and another story and more characters. The problem is, I get way too attached to my characters, and they haunt me every night, and they wait for their story to be told.
    I have no idea. I'm still trying to figure out how this all works. But, slowly, I'm working my way to the stage where holding one story and working through it until it's completed is at least plausible. We'll see how this goes. ;)

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    1. WE ARE SERIOUSLY TWINS. I completely relate to the "dungeon of self pitying unwritten novels," and getting "way too attached to my characters, and they haunt me every night, and they wait for their story to be told." That's basically my life right there. I feel like I just worry too much about the end result I want my novel to be and I'm not focusing enough on writing in the moment. I have ____ to describe and _____ point to get across, and I just need to write it in a choppy way for now just to get it out and move on and I can go back and smooth it out later. BUT SERIOUSLY, IT WILL GO GREAT. YOU CAN SO DO IT!!!

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    2. Okay, can I be your triplet? Because seriously, I can relate to everything you two said. :) THANK YOU SO MUCH both of you for sharing this, Megan, your post, and Abby, your comment, both of which pretty much explain what every writer has probably felt at one point or another. You guys rock. :)

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  3. This is such a perfect post. I can relate to almost everything you've said!

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  4. I can totally relate to having the ambitions and ideas but not being able to communicate them as I would like. I'm afraid of not writing the way I wish I could and afraid of what others may think and of failing. But I really liked the quote you shared because it's so true. I should just write, even if my words aren't the best, I can't be afraid of beginning because then I'll get no where and there's no progression in that. Even though I'm afraid and I know I'm not a good writer like I want to be, I will only get better if I practice and practice. You've encouraged me to just begin and see where my ambitions take me and to not be afraid of being unable to communicate my ambitions correctly just yet. With practice i will get better. Thank you for this. And yes! Go for it with writing your novel! I'm excited to see where your ambitions take you. :)

    Blessings!

    -Madi

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    1. Happy writing, and may the odds be ever in your favor! (sorry, I had to.) But, seriously, I hope everything turns out exactly how you want it to :)

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  5. OH MY GOODNESS I'M EXPERIENCING THE SAME THING. No, really. This was super encouraging and uplifting and everything. I can't wait to read your book. (:

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  6. I agree with Katie. Experiencing this too!

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  7. i've always admired people who have this love for writing novels and such, i never have, so i just enjoy it when others do:)
    xx

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  8. first off, let me just say, that quote by ira glass has gotten me over so many creative hurdles. thank you for sharing - i needed to be encouraged by it again. second, this entire post was just so uplifting. (those nights where your ideas seem a thousand times better than they actually are? totally know what you mean.) about a month and a half ago, i started working on a novel of my own, and i'm scared as all get out. but howsabout this: let's both just "write now, edit later", read way more books than is socially acceptable, and give it our all, hm? excited for you, friend. :) xx
    ( the alcove )

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    1. ggagahhhheee. don't know what noise I just made, but I love you jess.

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    2. OKAY. YES. YESSSSS. LETS DO IT.

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  9. oh my goodness, i'm so excited for you! i miss writing -- i used to do it all the time, but i haven't in a really long while. this is so exciting! :)

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  10. Lovely post, Megan! Keep up the writing! I want to read your novel if you publish it! =)

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  11. Ooh- terribly exciting! I'd love to buy it if you publish it!

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  12. Heehee. This is basically like my life. :P Great job putting thoughts into words...and don't give up on that novel!

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  13. I know it'll be fab. There is no way you could fail!

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  14. be proud of your first novel at 13. i read somewhere that shakespeare's earliest writings were deplorable.
    but he had to start from somewhere to get somewhere right? :)

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