My Writing Journey
When I think of a journey of any kind, my mind conjures images of a person following down a long and winding road that leads her over hill, through vale, and into a whole bushel of trouble. She doesn’t have a map, and she certainly isn’t using a GPS for her journey. No, such helpful items don’t exist in her world. She has to face what comes and rely on her own sense of direction, her own instincts to make it through. Ultimately, she has to face the biggest obstacles of all: self-doubt and fear.
My writing journey started much the same, except instead of gaining the confidence to take on dragons, I had to learn how to silence my inner critic so I could write a sentence. My mind was throwing things at me such as:
- What if you suck at fiction?
- What if you offend paying customers with your fiction work, and they think you aren’t taking your job as an SEO content marketer seriously?
- What if you don’t even know your book is terrible and you never sell a copy and you should be embarrassed, but you don’t even realize you should be embarrassed because you think it’s wonderful?
- What if your book effectively chases away customers for Sincerely Me?
- What if you write your book and no one reads it except for your mother? (Hi, Mom, thanks for always being supportive!)
- What if you can’t save enough money to pay for cover art, editing, and everything else you need to make your book a success?
- What if your book is a success, but people then won’t hire you to write their website content because they have a preconceived view of who you are as a writer?
As you can see, a lot of my fears were wrapped up in how the world would perceive me, and how that perception would affect my business. I kept asking myself the questions, but there were no real answers to be had. I couldn’t predict the future, and I couldn’t know if my book is any good if I didn’t write it first.
“You can’t polish what isn’t there yet. So you have to write that crappy first draft … And trust me, it probably will be crappy.” — Author Brent Weeks
Facing My Fear
But I spilled all of these fears out to some very lovely people who I trust to give it to me straight (coincidentally, they said the same things my husband has been saying for years *cough cough* honey, you were right, of course). And do you know what every single one of them said? Do it. Write the book. Quit using your fear as an excuse to avoid the hard things in life, such as writing your novel.
After a bit of prep work, my writing journey for my current work in progress, Adrienne’s Awakening, officially started the first of June this year. And I’m proud to say I completed the first draft November 24, 2017.
I wrote about 82,000 words in around five months (not including what the backspace and delete button consumed).
How did I manage that?
Well, I wrote in weird places, such as my garage and from my front porch as I watched the kids play outside. I reprioritized things in my life a bit and carved out time to write. I leaned on my incredibly supportive husband to pick up my slack around the house. I figured out how to make the most of the little moments of time between one meeting and the next and picking my daughter up from school. I got really good at focusing on paid work and getting it done more efficiently. I hired a virtual assistant who took care of pesky things like sorting the ever increasing pile of emails in my inbox.
It all worked because I was desperate for it to work.
I couldn’t stop writing. None of these things were troublesome to figure out because I had to because I had to keep writing. Once I got started on my manuscript, it kind of changed my life. Having a creative outlet that was completely and utterly for me meant I wrote better content for my clients. It meant I felt more energized. Something else happened too:
By getting over my own fear and writing my book, I set an example for my children. I showed them that following the things you’re passionate about brings more happiness to your life. I showed them you can do the things you love while still doing the things you must do and enjoy to do, like working and spending time with your family.
So even if I never sell a copy, my book has already been a success.
There are a few things that became a necessity while writing my novel. The first thing I couldn’t have written my novel without is my writing space. By having an area that was specifically where I go to write, I have been able to train my brain to perform when I go there. My brain knows I don’t wait for the muse to come to me because time is a luxury I don’t have. Instead, I make the most of my time and go to my writing area and write whenever I can.
And when the muse does show up, I’m ready because I wrote in Google Docs. I can write anywhere I have cell service with Google Docs. So even if I’m not in my writing space, I can still write or review what I’ve written. If I need to get something down before it’s gone, I can. If on days when both kids are home and I’m the only parent here, then I can write in little spurts of time as the opportunity presents itself without relocating to a different room. Google Docs also instantly saves everything I write as long as I’m connected to the internet, which is a definite plus.
Resources from the pros are often free and incredibly helpful.
Other tools came in the form of professional words of wisdom and guidance. For example, this Story Outline printout from Shayla Raquel was hanging on my wall right in front of my workspace for most of November. I looked at it anytime I started to feel as if I was losing my direction in the story as I wrote. It was part of a NaNoWriMo prep packet Shayla put together for her followers.
Another tool that is vital to my writing is the Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I truly believe every writer everywhere should have a copy. The Emotion Thesaurus helped me clean up my language and express the emotions my characters feel in more powerful ways (not that I think my characters can actually feel, but you get the drift I hope).
The last and yet most important of the tools I use to write is my headphones. Wireless, bluetooth, rechargeable, and active noise-cancelling—my headphones help me focus. With two kids and a husband and a home office, my headphones are my most valuable investment.
Well, headphones were my most valuable investment next to a computer I don’t want to throw against a wall because it takes three minutes to think about every page break I insert. Not that I have such tendencies, of course. Computer rage. That’s not really a thing, is it?
Rough First Draft
As for the writing itself, it should have been simple. I write every day for a living. Sure, it’s nonfiction and it’s customer-focused content, but I’m a writer by trade. No problem, right?
I prepared too, coming up with an outline and the overview of the beginning, middle, and end. I named my characters and outlined their personalities, traits, strengths, weaknesses, wants, and desires. I gave them backstories and thought about their lives both before they came to be in my current story and after. So no problem, right? This story should write itself through me.
I didn’t account for voice. My voice as a fiction novelist isn’t something I’ve developed. Finding my own voice took time, and the story didn’t feel right until I did. There are still spots where my voice isn’t quite there yet. I’m working on it.
How long did it take me to develop my voice enough that I could start to hear it? I rewrote the first 10,000 words of my manuscript four times over, if that gives you any idea. Those 10,000 words took me longer to write than the last 72,000. I’m sure I’m still working on developing it too. And I’m 82,000 words in.
As I edit, the other thing I’m doing is reading. I’m reading a lot of books in the same genres as mine. I focused on finding those books that have been received well by readers and I’m trying to get to know my target reader through their reading lists. Time will tell how well that works out.
Are you a writer, an author in progress? What are you struggling with on your first draft?