Monday, May 24, 2010
I have to get writing, but wanted to take a few moments to discuss how my first novel came about, as it was very different from how I usually do things. For one thing, there were huge time constraints, so I had to set aside my personal inner editor for the duration of the entire first draft. And for another, it was the fist time I'd ever actually finished anything like that.
A few years ago, I took a course online...just to make myself write regularly for awhile. I found that, for every assignment, I could keep using the same characters, and just insert them into each situation that I was supposed to write about. I grew to be quite fond of them...I could see them. And after the course was over and done, I found myself still thinking about them sometimes.
When November 2009 brought NaNoWriMo back around again, I just so happened to need a huge distraction for a few weeks, and decided NaNo would do the trick. I decided to revive those same girls from a few years before, and finally give them a story, full and complete, all their own. And I'm so glad I did.
I'm honestly not sure how the story came to me...all I know is that the Collins sisters, and the other main characters in their lives, quickly became like real people to me. I could see them, I knew them. I knew their house, I knew their secrets (well, some of them admittedly came as a surprise even to me), I knew what they looked like...I knew their fears and hopes and dreams. I didn't feel so much like I was creating them, as I was just telling their story. It's a good story, and I wanted to do them proud. I wanted to make it worthy of them, if I could.
Because NaNo only gives you 30 days to write at least 50 000 words, and I was working 6-day weeks and going to California for 4 days, I knew I had to be disciplined and write every single day. I put my inner editor aside and just ploughed through that first draft. I had a couple of friends reading as I was writing, and they started becoming as invested in the story as I was. There were times when it was such a struggle to find words - times when I wanted to stop all together. But between the friends reading and the characters who were becoming real to all of us, I manged to keep going. Even when I felt like all I was writing was total crap. I kept saying, "You can fix it in editing later. Just keep going."
My first draft was done a few days early of the deadline, and came in at about 55K words. I was so relieved to be done, and to have a few months to tinker before the free proof copy opportunity ran out, that I ended up not touching the manuscript for a good two...no...three months, almost. Then I wrote a whole new scene, involving insight into new characters that had barely been introduced, and fixed a few of the major flaws. I tried to add everything together more or less seamlessly. And then my brain kept going over it, even as I slept, so that on the morning I was sending the final draft to the printers for approval, I woke up and made some final adjustments even then. So stressful. I sat there with the submit button up, ready to be clicked, for hours.
I'd wanted to surprise my mom with it for her birthday, so I knew I couldn't wait much longer to get it in. When my proof copy showed up in the mail, I was beyond happy and excited about it. It looked so amazing, like a "real book", I kept saying. I approved it pretty much right away (after I got back from day one of a new con...good grief), and took my proof with me literally everywhere for the first few weeks.
We made group orders at work, and after Mom's surprise had been successful, I began to promote it in earnest. Now a few months after that proof first arrived, I am expecting my first royalty cheques to be sent out, I've sold and signed dozens of copies so far, and am working on the next big writing adventure. It's crazy...but in a good way. At first, I thought no one would buy it. Then I thought no one would actually read it. Now, people are starting to tell me how Carving The Light affected them, too, and suddenly I'm finding myself glad that I wrote it, glad that I went through the struggle and didn't just stop. Glad that it is getting out there.
There are still some mistakes, to be sure. And some changes I never had the time to make. But overall, I am actually pleased with my first effort. I'm usually most critical of my own work, but even now that I've written it, and edited it, and read it through again after it was printed, I still think about it. Those girls, and that story, are still a part of me...I keep wanting to go back and visit.
Now, for a change, I actually can.