I began my novel, PROOF, ten years ago, give or take. Long having been a ‘pantser’ with an annoying tendency to leave my future self clues and puzzles to solve in the course of writing a novel,* I signed up to Lazette Gifford’s very first ‘2 Year Novel’ course on Forward Motion and set about properly planning a novel for the very first time.
It started out well. I planned the entire thing (except for some uncertainty about how the ending would pan out – nice, or cruel? Future Sam, your call), scene by scene, crafted solid character and story arcs, careful worldbuilding – everything I’d ever wanted before but been too lazy/impatient to organise in advance. I started writing. Boy, it was nice having that outline there, guiding me, letting me know what conflict needed to be in every scene, what character development I needed where, what details needed to come out about the world. This time, I thought, I am really going to get somewhere.
But a lot of things happened in those ten years. A career change in my other life, a bout of second-guessing that led to a 6 year hiatus (not just from the project but from creating at all), a mortgage, a marriage, two children. Eventually, I kicked myself in the arse (loose quads) and got the first draft done. Sat on it, did a second, got feedback, rinse and repeat, cut some words, cut some more words, and here I am.
About to take the plunge.
There comes a certain point at which, if you’re serious about wanting to be a writer, as a career, you have to stop dithering, stop tinkering, stop convincing yourself it needs more work or you need to spend more time researching. You have to take that plunge and submit your work.
I’m probably not the only person who has sat on the edge of the water for a bit too long, evaluating the surface, visualising all the things that might go wrong or right (will it be too shallow and I’ll break my legs? Will I belly flop?*** Will a dolphin go by at exactly the wrong moment and knock me unconscious in front of the onlookers in the most amusing and humiliating way possible? OK they were mostly things going wrong. Maybe I’ll do a surprisingly graceful dive and people will applaud. Ha). I know I’m there because I’m past the point of any objectivity about my work. Anything I once liked about it now seems lame and self indulgent. It’s overwritten. It’s underwritten. It’s simplistic. It’s overly complicated. Why is it so crap? Why am I so crap? Paradoxically, I know now that I can no longer see anything of value in it that I must be done – not because it feels like a masterpiece but because any judgment I make about it now is worth shit. So might as well start letting someone else make the judgments.
Anyway, I thought it might be valuable to someone, somewhere, to document the process of getting from finishing a book to…well, whatever. You can follow me through the sea of rejections, the self pity, the second guessing, and maybe, eventually, publication. Hell, you have to be an optimist to be a writer, right? Maybe you’ll witness a swan dive. Or a humiliating drowning. Either way, join me for the swim!
* Aha, Past Sam**would think, chuckling, I’ll just lay this excruciatingly clever hint here about what that candle really means, ho ho, won’t Future Sam love unpacking that later!
** AKA Arsehole Sam
*** Why do belly flops hurt so bad? It sounds so innocuous. Even fun. But for the instant of that slap it’s like I flay you, motherfucker!