I really want to talk about my novel, because it’s an experience quite unusual to me. I promised myself when I first started writing that I would finish everything I wrote. Mostly because when I started writing seriously, I was in a difficult place in my life (including a long distance relationship that was both inspiring and heartbreaking, a horrible financial situation, and a job that wasn’t what I wanted but I was locked in). The one thing that was mine, that I could control was my writing. I couldn’t deal with that becoming a failure as well.
It took me a year to write my first and second novels, living alone, and less than half that time for my third though I was married by that time, working a better job, living a better life. Strangely, I have little memory of the experience of writing my third novel. I’m not sure why, but I wrote it in three months. When I wrote these, they were pretty much my only focus.
So when I started my fourth novel to participate in Zette’s novel class (I signed up for the revision side, as I was terrified of revision at that point), everything fell apart. I was already a mom and twenty thousand words into the novel, I became pregnant again. I dropped the novel and all the plotting and world building that went with it. Sometime later, I picked it up again, but between trying to balance it with other projects and a minor injury that complicated my very busy life, I had to drop it again. (This was after I’d reread the entire thing, studied the notes, etc). Then Fall 2011 came and I was determined to Finish The Damned Novel because it was weighing me down. I didn’t want to write a new novel without finishing this one. It would mean breaking my promise to myself. I reread everything, including all the world building, felt like I had some new perspective on my characters, and then broke my hand.
Yes, my hand. A writer’s nightmare. You see, I typed about 90 words a minute. With an outline, I could type out story to the content of a chapter a day. Suddenly I couldn’t type. And the speech recognition software wasn’t up to par yet. I knew if I put the novel down one more time, it would break something inside me. Sounds dramatic, but it was. I felt the novel was cursed, that I was going to fail before my writing career ever reached anything Wiki-worthy.
I bought a notebook and a pen that flowed smoothly across the pages and I wrote by hand over lunch breaks, writing until my hand couldn’t hold the damn pen anymore. For weeks I did this, meanwhile, using the speech program in the evening to train it up for the transcription. It worked a little bit, but with all my fantasy names, it had a hard time getting it. I really should have been training it more than that, but I had other parts of my life (family, pets, job, house, etc) and I couldn’t spend all my time on the damned computer.
As soon as my doctor told me I could type again, (my pinky is still taped to my left finger at this point), I painstakingly transcribed by hand. It took nearly two full days (I took a day off of work, plus an additional two evenings) but I did it. It was all on the computer, with an outline worth of 15k to go. I was so close.
Typing tired my hands, so I did it in small spurts at first. I learned not to try and shift/control/tab/capslock with my left hand. The less twisting I did, the better. It occurred to me at this point to relearn Dvorak, but that would have complicated my day job typing (data entry in a docketing system – don’t want to screw up those codes or the attorneys would kill me).
I gave myself a deadline of New Year’s Eve. If I let the story linger with all these issues, I’d never finish it. So day after day, *every* single day in December, I worked on the novel. Finally, my typing is as good as it’s going to get with the injury, I put everything into it. I schedule two days off from work and spend the entire day both days typing the last bit of the story.
I finished it. The End. What a horribly frustrating ride.
The story changed from when I started it five years ago. My writing changed. So much needs to be fixed. But I’ll do it.
The point is: I kept my promise to myself. That I kept to my principles and finished despite all the issues has given me satisfaction. It’s given me a better understanding of what I can do despite everything going on around me (and inside my hand).
Never give up.
No matter how hard it gets, don’t stop.
Funny thing is, I think this is my strongest story yet. Yes, it needs a massive overhaul, but the last quarter of the book has some really good story telling in it. The heart of the story survived, improved even.
This is the story I’m going to revise using Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel. This is the story I’m going to apply with to my dream workshop.
I’m taking January to read and assess the damage, review character profiles, and draw some sketches based on scenes I need to visualize better. February will begin the revision. I’ll be doing this while also working on short stories. I have some deadlines first quarter so I can’t abandon those, but I think I’ll figure out the balance.
If I can finish this problematic of a novel, I can do anything. It may not be easy, but I’ll get there eventually.
Happy Writing to you!
Congrats, Dawn! You got more than a monkey off your back–more like an orangutan! That sort of persistence will pay off for you big time.
Congratulations, Dawn. You’re going to love How To Revise Your Novel. I have a revision story similar to your writing story. I’ve been taking the class since it opened, and I’m only on Lesson 13. But I believe it’s enormously helpful.
Fantastic. Well done, you.
That’s an amazing promise to make to yourself. I’ve dropped several things that haven’t worked, though the themes/characters/plots often show up in later pieces. Congratulations on finishing, and good luck with your revisions!
Thank you Ladies. 🙂
Congratulations on sticking with it!