It is now over a year since I first started writing my debut novel.
It feels like a long time to me but in the novel-writing world its pretty short. In this article from Bustle it reportedly took journalist Margaret Mitchell 10 years to write and publish her staggering Civil War-era tome, Gone With the Wind. It took author Audrey Niffenegger over four years to write The Time Traveler’s Wife (and another seven to complete Her Fearful Symmetry).
I believe once you pass the twelve month mark of writing a novel you are in a different head space. The passionate love affair that you and your novel embarked upon during those first few months is well and truly over. Things which concerned you during the first few months of novel-writing like the names of characters, the title, the opening chapter and whether or not you will reach your 70k final word count will have fallen off your literary radar.
There are now new things to worry about like the number of times your novel will need rewriting, refining the structure of your story and whether or not your character arcs are strong enough.
You will have also acquired a new set of learnings.
Here are the things you learn a year into writing a novel:
- A book gets more demanding the longer you spend writing it. If you think your first draft takes up a lot of your time and makes a lot of noise inside your head, you should try ignoring the racket it makes after twelve months!
- Life will get in the way of your novel and there is nothing you can do about this.
- Writing a book is about discovery. I don’t think you fully appreciate this until you have been working on the same story for over a year. Not only a discovery about your book but also you find out who you are as a person.
- The longer you write your book the more opportunities you will get to quit writing it. The trick is to keep saying no and persisting with it.
- Frequent breaks away from your draft novel help keep you sane.
- Anxiety about whether you will ever finish it in your lifetime can keep you awake in the small hours.
- The only way to overcome writer’s block is to write. You have to focus on writing something else to unpick the creative knot inside your head. I have found having a sneaky first draft on the go has been a godsend. Whilst you are writing something else your brain works out the issues with your novel.
- You have to become an expert at finding your way back to your draft novel. You will be constantly pushing it away as a result of writing set backs, writer doubt, imposter syndrome, writer shame, intense hatred for it, unwanted criticism from others and good old-fashioned writing failure. The quicker you get back to your novel the better.
If you are over the year mark with your draft novel – high fives!
If you are in the two, three, four, five year zone with your draft novel – you are my heroes!
Have a great day!