Once upon a time, I wrote a novel.
Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Many people dream about writing a novel; but how many see that dream come true?
Yet, what does “I wrote a novel” really mean? Do the 50,000 words from NaNoWriMo constitute a novel? Or is it the completed second draft? Third? Fourth? Tenth? What if it’s never published—does it still count?
Once upon a time, I wrote a 93,000-word novel. I completed four or five drafts, let some people read it, and sent it to literary agents. No takers. Now I have ideas of how to make the story better. So what once seemed like a finished novel now seems like a project requiring much more work (which would be the case even if I had an agent or editor).
Back in February and March, I wrote the first draft of a second novel, this one 80,000 words. Yeah, the first draft is complete . . . but the remaining drafts stretch before me. No one has read more than fragments of it. I almost loathe to talk about it, because I feel like I should have finished it by now. Whatever “finished” means.
Last year, I had an idea for a third novel—about angels. I thought if the second novel didn’t work out, I might try writing the angel novel. It’s in that fun brainstorming stage, where I get to daydream about it in spare moments. Every day it gets slightly more defined in my mind.
This week I’ve read several blogs. Apparently, angels are the “next big thing in publishing” (following the path of vampires and fairies). Some agents and editors are specifically saying, “Do not send me any stories about angels,” because they’re getting mobbed by angels.
Well. A year of brainstorming down the drain. Why couldn’t I have written that book first, before angels were old news?
It’s times like this when I get very frustrated with the writing business. Don’t get me wrong—I still respect the publishing industry. I especially love the advocates of children’s books, whether they be authors, agents, editors, or whoever. I read as much as I can and learn as much as I can. But the problem I struggle with—the publishing industry is literally changing every day. Now we have to consider self-publishing, e-books, iPhone apps, podcasting novels, etc. Each day I wonder, “Am I wasting my time with this approach? Maybe I should try something new.”
I think I’m mainly frustrated with myself. It’s probably the OCD perfectionist in me. I wish I could write faster, or manage my time better, or somehow just capture those ideas in my head and get them on paper before the world-of-publishing-as-we-know-it changes again. I can never find enough time to do all the reading and writing that I want to do. I don’t know how to finish a book.
I usually come across as optimistic. Maybe some of you, who expect my usual cheeriness, are now concerned for my state of mind. Please, no need to worry. I am fine. But I realized today . . . I shouldn’t always pretend that writing is all sunshine and unicorns. Because no writer is problem-free. Even bestselling authors have worries and problems (such as, you know, deadlines. Which I have none). And I don’t want the writers who read this site to think, “Oh, Erin is always so optimistic. She must be a better writer than I am, because I worry about my writing every day. I think I’ll stop writing forever.”
Please, for the love of ice cream, do not think that. If you’re wondering whether or not you should write, consider these two lists . . .
Erin’s List of Reasons NOT to Write:
1. For money.
2. For book-signing tours, movie deals, and rubbing elbows with Robert Pattinson.
3. Because it’s easy, stress-free, and relaxing.
4. Because you’ll get to choose all details of your published book, from the cover to every last word.
[Deleted for lack of space: reasons #5 through #914]
Erin’s List of Reasons TO Write:
1. Because you don’t feel happy otherwise.
No wonder I’m grumpy today. I haven’t written a word of fiction in approximately seven months. For the sake of my sanity (and yours), I better get back to writing soon.
I don’t need to be published to be happy. I don’t even need to finish a book. But I do have to write. Next week, I’ll come up with a schedule to make writing possible again.
I might be too old for fairy tales (might), but I’m not too old for happiness.