Monday, October 6, 2014

Writing is like marriage, and books are like babies: Part 2

Continued from Part One.

In 2010, my junior year, I discovered the Inklings Theme House. Once a week, the house would invite Whitworth students over for a night of reading, writing, and conversation around those two things. It was there, during Whitworth Novel Writing Month in January 2011, that I began (and failed at) writing another novel, based on a short story, which years later became Shifter.

This was me a couple months before starting Dragon's Destiny.
The next school year, having joined the theme house as a resident, I picked up novel writing once more. Dragon’s Destiny began in November 2011 (November is National Novel Writing Month). My goal was 50,000 words in one month. I didn’t finish, but ended up carrying it forward another year without adding much to it.

By this time, I had all but forgotten my dream of becoming a novelist. With a college degree and a mountain of student loans, novel writing was a hobby I didn’t have time to pursue. Yet I still hoped I would finish my novel someday. It didn’t even have a title at that point.

A week after graduation, I’d started working for my hometown newspaper, using my creative talents to write nonfiction as opposed to fiction. It suited me, and continues to, because I tend to be a multitasker and I like to be able to get away from the office while working.

I continued writing only at work for a long time, choosing to watch Netflix or read books every night to avoid getting a social life. After all, wasn’t drinking the only thing to do in Elko after dark?
Then I saw the email from Brandy M. Miller, president of the Elko County Art Club. She had started a new writers group and wanted to get the word out. I attended my first meeting at the end of January 2013. I was hooked from then on.

The Elko County Writers were people, mostly women around my age or older, who were also trying to get their books written. I learned all about self-publishing, though I remained skeptical about that for some time. After all, real authors were picked up by publishers; they were just that good. Still, I got my first taste of self-publishing when our group released our anthology, The Collected Works of the Elko County Writers, that fall.

During our weekly meetings, each person would state his or her goal for the week, and whether he or she had accomplished last week’s goal. The group made you accountable for what you wanted to get done. It made you think about why you had committed yourself to writing to begin with. Still, it wasn’t quite enough to motivate me to finish my novel. I made headway, but without a computer, it just didn’t work out.

I was also having difficulty getting myself to even start writing for fun, and beginning is often the hardest part. Still, I’ll never forget the hard truth given to me by Brandy during one of our weekly meetings: Writing is like marriage. Sometimes, you aren’t going to be “in the mood,” but you do it anyway. The mood will present itself. And, as I learned, that started to become true for me.

I realize now that I have been married to writing for quite some time. Like a high school sweetheart, I ran off with it to college, and made a commitment I was too young to fully understand. But I know what it means: If writing is like marriage, then books are like babies.

You see, when the idea for a novel plants itself inside your mind, it’s a lot like finding out you’re pregnant (though I can only speak from what I know of others’ experiences). You’re nervous and excited all at the same time. You don’t know yet if it’s a good thing. Over the next few days or weeks, it gnaws at your thoughts, demanding attention. You don’t want to eat because you are consumed by the plot forming inside your head. But at the same time, you need to eat, to give it sustenance with literal food for thought.

And then begins the main stage of the pregnancy, and you know you’re committed to the idea whether you like it or not. That’s how I felt about Dragon’s Destiny. I knew that it would be my first child, so to speak.

Still, there were complications, the most important of which was not having a computer. Around then, Brandy had asked me to become a test subject for her new self-help book, The Write Time: How to find the time you need to write a book. Reading it and doing the exercises, I began to understand how I could be a part-time novelist, and raise my child, while keeping my full-time job. The point Brandy makes in her book is this: People are always saying “I don’t have enough time.” But, as Brandy states, that is a lie. You have all the time you need, it’s what you choose to do with it that makes the difference.

That’s when I got it. If I made tiny sacrifices, such as an hour or two of Netflix a night or even a half hour less sleep, then I could find the time to finish my novel. So that’s what I did. I waited every night for the last 45 minutes before bedtime and began to write using my smartphone. I gave up watching multiple films a week and switched to shorter television episodes. During my lunch break at work, I gave up 20 minutes of reading time to type an additional 700 words on my phone. Each chapter became a new document in the “Diaro” app that I used on my Droid Razr. The chapters were hard to scroll through on a small screen, so I emailed them to myself and compiled them into my manuscript using my parents’ computer.

Before I knew it, I was getting the words down as quickly as I could. Everything was going great, and the more I wrote, the more involved I got with my characters and my story. I gave my book a name, Dragon’s Destiny, and proceeded from there.

Brandy’s book had also suggested I make a specific deadline for myself. As a journalist, I knew all about deadlines, but I decided to make it a reasonable one. I wanted November 2013 to be the due date for my first finished draft, or 60,000 words, whichever came soonest. That would be exactly two years from my start date.

Concluded in Part Three.

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