Today marks the day, one year ago, when I took my first step into Noveldom with no idea what I was doing, where I was heading, or what it would look like when/if I got to the other side.
While I had always considered myself a fluent and interesting writer (having garnered a few compliments throughout my life for the skillset), I had never considered that writing a novel (much less trying to make a career of doing so consistently) would be something I’d get the opportunity, or have the interest, to do before retirement.
Forget about making a career out of it! The idea of sitting down and writing a whole novel seemed akin to owning a home or traveling the world on a whim; something rumored to be feasible when one either has enough money to do so, or is in one’s “golden” years of life, neither of which I have or am.
Nevertheless, my soul yearned for a break from its emotionally dead-end day job as a web developer to pursue something more satisfying; something that, if explored successfully, could potentially take over as my new day job.
Thus, on May 1st, 2017, I took a step back from my job for three months and dove head first into writing my first novel. And I got that novel done, yes ma’am/sir I did! I didn’t let anything hold me back from reaching my finish line.
But when the deed was done, I was left feeling foolish.
I had gotten far too gung-ho with my daydreams of publishing rewards for a book that I knew to be unworthy of mainstream publisher’s. And instead of checking myself each and every time I got carried away with my dreams, I let myself get so hopeful that my first book would blow minds that I failed to see the obvious flaws jutting out of it from every angle.
After working my ass off to meet my deadline and pouring my heart and mind into every corner of my first book, I took a step back and realized I had fallen down quite the rabbit hole.
So I did what most people do who feel foolish: I ran away.
I took a year away from fiction writing and seriously never wrote more than a half chapter every two months and even then, just in desperation for confidence or motivation to kick in. I didn’t continue to hone my craft. I had lost my mojo, gosh darnit, and while I was in dire straights to get it back, I was in no mood to write myself foolish for a second time in one year.
So instead, I took a step back to reassess my emotions for wanting to become an author in the first place; to reevaluate my perspective on my writing abilities and my intuition for good story lines; and to take an honest look at why that first book hit me so hard.
Now, exactly one year later, do I have some shit to digest and unpack!
First and foremost: no, I did not get published and transformed into the next J.K. Rowling; no surprises there.
Indeed, twenty publishers rejected me. And I know that number is frivolous compared the number of rejections most published author’s admit to having received before getting published, but a rejection is a rejection is a fucking rejection. And I had built high hopes, ‘member?
My saving grace came in the form of a journal entry that I had penned just before diving into my first novel; an entry that reminded me how my first book had been a nosedive in the dark by choice.
It had started as a calculated maneuver to understand what it takes to write a novel and what it feels like to finish that challenge in such a way that I’d want to write another.
However, I inevitably ended up ignoring my first rule for writing my first novel: don’t romanticize it. It was my first book, after all, not a dark chocolate fountain with all the fixings. I told myself to stay calm, write the thing, then set it aside and write another thing.
Of course that’s not what I did.
I idiotically fell madly in love with the idea of having that first novel be my salvation because, duh! Wouldn’t that have been nice? Who wouldn’t want to go from lackluster career to love-struck life mission?!
And so, I shit you not, the emotional disappointment I felt for getting so caught up in my silly, never-meant-to-go-anywhere, I-knew-what-I-was-getting-into-and-still-looked-the-other-way novel (that I knew, in my deepest of gut instincts, would never have been picked up by a publisher for a myriad of reasons), was startling enough to keep me away from fiction writing for almost a full year.
No joke abouts.
I just started to take my fiction writing seriously again in the last month.
So, what set me back?
How did I go into my first novel knowing what I knew, feeling how I felt, planning it out to be the exploration mission it was intended to be, just to have it rip out all my hope-strings and stunt my desire to keep writing?
Why was my first novel such a personal disappointment?
1. LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN MY ABILITIES
Regardless of the compliments I’ve received in the past or the hundred-thousand words I put into that story, I felt wildly unworthy when the rewards I wanted weren’t reaped, even if those rewards were misaligned to my efforts. Whether my story concept was a bad idea, or my writing was terrible, or my plot was weak, didn’t matter. What mattered was that once my first novel was done and I saw how truly terrible it was and faced a slew of really fast rejections (like, a little too fast if I’m being transparent), there wasn’t much I could do to stop my feelings of stupidity and foolishness.
2. LACK OF POSITIVE FEEDBACK
This one’s tough because it involves a few key friends and family members who were given my first novel to read and review. In hindsight, and to be completely fair to them, the book I gave them was realistically in its first draft phase, not nearly where I’d like it to be were I to hand it out to anyone in the future. Even the ending was a chop job I put together in a few hours on a weekend afternoon. That being said, the consensus I got was a resounding, “this isn’t it, but keep trying, I think you can make this a career.” THIS IS FANTASTIC FEEDBACK!!! But when you’ve allowed yourself to get jaded by dreams of first book breakthroughs, this kind of feedback can be disheartening. I realized in their kindly framed condolences that I needed to reevaluate several aspects of my writing style, from story line to diction. But I wouldn’t come to terms with that reality for another few months.
3. FEAR OF COMMITMENT
Let’s be real: writing a novel is hard fucking work with zero guarantees for return on investment. Even if you don’t consider that return to be money, even if it’s just the satisfaction of having written the book at all! There’s a chance you’ll finish the thing just to find out you hate it. There’s a chance you’ll decide not to finish it at all because it stinks more than rotten eggs in a festering dumpster on a hot, sunny day. So you can imagine that when you’ve just finished pouring your guts into a novel that received very limited, lackluster feedback, well, it can be daunting to pick up yet another story idea, plop your determined butt down, and tap that baby out like a pissed off pianist trying to prove a point.
How did I overcome that disappointment & return to Noveldom?
So what changed?
Why am I suddenly so ready to strand myself on Noveldom, yet again?
Mostly, I came to terms with what I want to do with this one life of mine and I’ve made a personal vow to get it the fuck done.
No mess arounds.
I realized I’m here to write the stories that flash through my mind like cosmic fireworks showing off for no one in particular and, just like those cosmic light shows, if I never get published professionally in my lifetime, so be it. I’m not here for mass publication and accolades (though I’m happy to accept reasonable rewards for my hard work). I’m here for all the oddball souls out there who will enjoy my stories no matter how abstract and bizarre they may be.
So, on that note, I’ve removed my initial posts here on Adventures in Noveldom to start fresh and in that vein, I’ve decided to fully document my second year of writing novels. That’s right, plural! Novels.
So what now? Where will I go from here?
I intend to take 1-year off from my career as a web developer to focus 100% of my efforts on creating fictional works of art that I can share with the world.
I’ll be focusing primarily on fiction novels, but I do have a few non-fiction’s and screenplay’s that I’ll be fiddling with as well.
First on the list is a piece of fiction I’m extremely jazzed about, tentatively titled: Snowe Storms (for lack of wanting to share the true title and give away all the fun).
Stay tuned to follow my journey. 365 days to becoming a full-time novelist!
And a happy 1-Year Noveldom Anniversary to me!!!