Goodbye, July. Hello, August. Welcome back, Sanity.
If you participated in “Summer’s Ultimate Novel,” I’d love to know how you’re feeling right now. Exhausted? Ecstatic? Relieved? Disappointed? Burnt out?
Any of these emotions are normal and expected. In fact, I think I felt them all within 24 hours of completing my first novel. To remember exactly how it happened, I dug up my old blog, the one I used before starting this site. The blog entry on January 27, 2008 said I finished my novel around midnight, after which I danced in the kitchen for awhile and wrote an “ecstatic” blog post. I was so wound up that night, it took me forever to fall asleep. Then I blogged again the next day, labeling my mood as “exhausted.” I was still relieved to be done with the first draft, but I knew the story had a lot of problems. Already I was dreading the second draft and all the editing it would need!
I did manage to write one decent piece of advice in my exhausted blog post: “Even if this book never gets published, it was still an awesome learning experience and worth every minute of hard work. I learned so much about writing, stuff you can’t learn by reading books or by taking advice from other writers. You won’t know how to write YOUR novel until you sit down and actually write it.”
So, yeah. Don’t be disappointed if you fell short of your word count goal, and don’t worry if your first draft has problems. It’s supposed to have problems—really. At this point, the most important thing is that you tried. You took a risk. You jumped headfirst into novel-writing. You did not drown … and maybe you even found some treasure along the way.
Possible Reactions to SUN:
1. “I changed my mind about being a writer.” This could be a temporary reaction. We’ve all had moments of doubt when we’re tempted to stop writing. Give it some time … if the desire to write doesn’t come back to haunt you, then perhaps you’re not meant to be a writer. As much as this would suck, it’s better to know it now rather than later. Life’s too short for misleading dreams. Find something else that truly makes you happy.
2. “I never want to see this story again.” Okay, I can understand that. But please don’t trash it yet! You need a break from it to gain perspective. If nothing else, someday you can look back on it and laugh … and see how much you’ve improved as a writer since then!
3. “SUN was crazy difficult, but I won’t give up on writing yet.” Oh, the stubborn type—good for you! Maybe you’re more of a poet, short-story writer, journalist, etc. Maybe you would like writing novels, but this particular story didn’t work out for you. So many possibilities; just keep trying!
4. “I love my story—I want to publish it now!” Whoa, Nellie. It’s great if you still love the story, but no one can get a first draft published. Take a break from it, then start on the second draft with fresh eyes. After that, use critique partners or test readers to get feedback. Write a third draft. Rinse. Repeat. Don’t worry yet about publishing your novel. That may sound condescending, but it’s not meant to be—I’m just looking out for your long-term interests. After hearing the disadvantages of publishing too young from Laurie Halse Anderson, now I want to share her advice. Besides, you could always wait until college (or right after college when you’re broke) to try selling your novel.
5. “I don’t know if this story is good or not.” I hear ya. I think most writers struggle with this problem. In the end, all you can do is write what you love. If you’re not enjoying yourself, try a different story. If you’re still having fun with the first story, keep drafting and tinkering with it. Editing is another great learning experience. Eventually, you’ll decide to move on to something else … or you’ll decide to share your story with someone. And if you do that, you’ll get a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses in your novel.
Remember to clock in with your final word counts if you want to qualify for the SUN contest! I’ll announce the winners next Saturday. At some point, I’ll be talking about the next project we should tackle, so stick around for that.
Congratulations to each and every one of you—I am so proud of your accomplishments!! *cue balloons, music, and confetti*