Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
I have been putting off writing this post for a few weeks while still getting the strength to wrap my head around the truth:
I finished a new novel.
Well, "new" is a relative term, but it still fits.
More importantly: I finished my first novel in 3 years. Yes, 3 years!
I don't mean to make it sound as though I haven't been busy these three years, because I have. I've written (and published) several short stories and novellas including The Christmas Compass and the upcoming Beauty Beheld. I have been working on other projects as well. And some of that time was spent coping.
But still, it's been 3 years.
It seems pretty crazy to me, and I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around writing "the end" for the first time in a while. But I want to share with you a bit about my journey to this novel, and what it's been like penning my first full novel after a long stint.
The Journey Here ~
October 12th will mark my 6th publishing anniversary (you may have seen my 5 year picture on the home page). I started publishing when I was 19, and so many things have changed both career-wise and in my personal life since then. It's really been a whirlwind.
In 2013, I spent much of my time trying to adhere to the then popular advice of "write your story fast and publish it even faster"; I am a living testament to how well that does not work. I spent much of 2013 wrestling with this difficult schedule, and that is when I finished my last novel.
Midnight was published in early 2013, with an updated version published some time later. Several other stories were published in conjunction. But by the end of summer 2013, I was struggling not only with the demanding writing schedule, but with renewed depression, and difficulties with my pre-existing medical issues.
I put out plenty of stories in 2013, but by the end of the year I was spent, and searching for the desire to write at all. Between the depression, medical problems, and writing schedule, I lost my love for writing almost entirely.
It's taken me almost three years to recover it.
The novel I just finished is, I believe, the end of the long process of finding myself as a writer again.
Rewrite Of A New Story ~
In Autumn of 2015, I picked up an old friend in a new way.
Those of you who have been with me from the beginning (and I thank you for that) may remember a not-so-little book called Shadows of Past Memories. A book very near and dear to my heart, written throughout one of the most difficult times in my life, this story was set aside for a while amidst the chaos of "fast, fast, fast".
I'll be the first to say that I lost touch with this story just as much as I lost touch with my writing. I loved it, but I didn't feel connected to it anymore after a time. I didn't want to put it on the shelf, but I couldn't picture myself picking it back up again.
In summer 2014, I went on a cruise, and brought a sketchbook with me. Drawing was something else I had let slip to the wayside. But when I went to craft my first drawing, I was surprised to find a familiar character from SOPM on the page.
It's almost as if she was warning me of what was to come.
Over the rest of 2014 and the beginning half of 2015, I dabbled in a new draft for the story, but nothing stuck. I spent much of my time writing bits and pieces of different novels, but never finishing anything (other than shorts and novellas). I was slowly working towards loving my writing again.
Then Autumn came, and the weather began to change, and I did something I hadn't done in a while: I broke out my keyboard.
I've realized that I like to write the first draft, at least, by hand. I feel more connected to the story that way. But I am so familiar with this tale that writing the first draft on the computer actually worked for me--
At the start of 2016, I poured myself into writing this novel: a rewrite of SOPM, but a new story entirely in a way; I suppose you can call it an alternate version.
Finding A New Home ~
Writing really is such an organic thing. No matter how much I plot or plan, stories and their worlds and characters really do have a mind of their own. And it's beautiful, setting out to discover what there is for you to find.
I officially finished the SOPM rewrite/new story in early April, with 90K. It sounds strange, but even though most of my young writing life was spent penning long, extravagant stories (the first draft of SOPM was 300K and unfinished), I never thought I would see 90K again.
How did I manage it? I'd love to be mysterious and say I don't know, but really it was a matter of: putting one word down after the other.
Finishing this old/new story taught me a few things about myself as a writer, or maybe about writing in general...
~ Sometimes, you really do have to just sit and force the words out, even if you think they're horrible. Writing isn't always fun, but work is rewarding.
~ Even if it doesn't start out fun or fulfilling, it usually ends up that way. It may take time, but enjoyment comes eventually.
~ Finishing a project is key. I used to split my work between projects, and I don't believe that's bad, but sometimes it's really only a way to put off finishing because you're scared or frustrated.
Writing and finishing this novel was terrifying, to be honest. My characters changed, though they remained themselves. The setting changed, though it has hints of the original. The ending changed dramatically, and the setup for book 2 surprised me.
I spent a good deal of time wondering whether this insane story was any good or not, or whether the original was better.
And as it grew to a close, I was so afraid to finish it that I literally paced next to the computer and made myself sick.
But then I went to a signing for the newest Kingdom Keepers novel, and Mr. Ridley Pearson gave me some great advice: to just put one word down after the other until it's finished, and don't worry about fixing it until you rewrite. Basically, just get it done.
I still struggled, but courage from another writer gave me the strength to carry on.
I wrote the end in a blur -- 5 chapters in two days -- but then there it was: 90K, "the end".
I wish I could say that I felt thrilled, and screamed in joy at the top of my lungs, but really I just stared at the number for a minute, smiled, and then got up to go eat dinner. I was excited, and still am, but I know there is much more work to be done.
Don't forget to celebrate your accomplishments -- but also don't forget to pour your heart into what comes next.
The good thing is, I'm looking forward to it.
One job well done leads to the next, and bit by bit we pick the pieces up: whether those pieces are pieces of ourselves, or pieces of our stories.
The important thing is to keep going, and keep fighting, no matter what tries to stand in your way. It may have taken me three years to reach "the end" of a novel, but I learned about myself and my writing in that time, and it's made me a stronger, more daring artist.