It’s been a long while since I posted here, but in 2020 I plan to change that. Instead of posting articles, I’ve been pouring all my spare time into working on my 2016 NaNo novel. It’s been quite the journey.
In 2017, I did some sporadic editing in short bursts (using Camp NaNo for inspiration). I started reading through my novel and working on it. I found I’d get to a certain point and really struggle to continue. I realise now this is because that section needed a lot of work to tighten up. I’d put it aside and go back to the earlier scenes to polish. And then take a big rest.
Throughout 2018, I did more editing and rewriting, getting to a second draft version – again, in fits and starts, without much order or organisation. I avoided reworking that floppy middle section for another year, by refining the first act again and again. On reflection, this was due to worries about how to write more than that first draft. Where could I go from here? I don’t want to just pad it out for the sake of it. I want the story to be good.
Being a new writer, it was overwhelming to see different techniques and lists of what you should and shouldn’t do, what kind of editing you’d need, how to get an agent, the challenges of self publishing, how to show not tell, the importance of killing your darlings (which, I found out, doesn’t mean killing off your favourite character, but essentially not being precious about pretty words you’ve written, if they don’t benefit the story).
It was also challenging to deal with feelings of insecurity over my work. I would (and still do) swing between moments of shining glory (“this is really good!”) and suffocating despair (“this is a piece of shit and I should burn it and never write another word”). The temptation is strong to keep my work to myself. If I never show it to anyone, it can exist in my own head as a perfect form. But whilst it is a terrifying prospect to lay oneself bare, publishing the work and bringing it into the world feels to me like something I must do. It feels to me the point of writing.
In 2019, I got serious. First, I rejigged my Twitter feed to really only show me writers or writing-related accounts. It has changed my whole perspective on social media as a tool for inspiration, and has helped me immerse myself in writing. I recommend you do the same, to remove the distractions that take us away from creating. I also joined the #writingcommunity hashtag and began following more and more fellow writers on Twitter. Writers followed me, tagged me, we interacted with each other, and I increased my follower count seven-fold organically. That’s a captive audience, right there. This is the start of a marketing plan for when I publish. If you are just starting out, begin curating your audience now.
However, the single greatest thing I did for my writing in 2019 was to challenge myself to write every day. This didn’t have to mean working on my novel. It could be a blog post, or a flash fiction, or an entry into a writing competition. It could be anything, as long as it was some form of writing, and I did it every day. It might have been a five minute sprint, or an hour long session. It was still writing. It was the best decision of my budding writing career, and it showed me I can dedicate myself fully to something if I really want to. I have learned discipline and commitment.
I held myself accountable by tweeting using the hashtag #writeeveryday and I posted each day on my Twitter feed. I wrote every single day of 2019 without an excuse. I wrote when I was tired after work. I wrote when I was laid up with a throat infection. I wrote at lunchtime when I knew I was going to be out all night. I wrote while I was transiting at airports. I wrote on planes. I quickly smashed out words on my phone during panels of a three-day gaming convention. Once, I was tipsy at a work dinner, and I wrote some drunken sentences between courses. I wrote on the bus going through the Northern Territory. I wrote on the twentieth anniversary of my brother’s death. I wrote when I was stressed. I wrote every day.
I worked hard in 2019. I reworked every character, gave them a voice and a personality. I wrote masses of new dialogue. I wrote whole new scenes and chapters. I introduced new plot lines. I cut a LOT of stuff too. I learned to trust myself with my story. I went from 52000 words at the start of 2019, to just over 80000 words at the end. I finished with a strong final draft that is ready for beta reading, editing, and, soon, publishing.
I submitted entries into Furious Fiction whenever I needed a break from my novel. I never won but I had fun, and it was a great way to challenge myself to write something different with only a few prompts. I started a memoir about all the cats I’ve loved throughout my life. I entered the Grieve Project, and my piece, The Window, was selected for publication. I bought the book and it’s an amazing feeling to see your name in print, let me tell you.
Throughout the year, I overcame fear of failure because what is worse than trying and not being good, than not trying at all? I learned that writer’s block does not exist if you listen to your creative brain and ignore your critical brain. Dean Wesley Smith‘s Writing Into the Dark cemented that for me (shout out to my author friend, Blair Denholm, for recommending it). I also got a lot of value from Stephen King‘s On Writing. If you need to jump-start your writing mojo, you could do worse with either of these.
I can overcome procrastination pretty well now. A little whinge (“I can’t be bothered writing today”) and then I just sit down and start. I trust my creative brain. It can do amazing things! It thought up characters and creatures and a strange new world. I created a world!
So here we are, on the first day of 2020. A new year, a new decade, and innumerable possibilities and opportunities. This is the year I publish my first novel. This is the year I start writing my second. I can’t wait to see where 2020 takes me, and I look forward to walking this path with you too. Let’s create magic!