I have been wanting a good, solid thunderstorm for a long time now and we still haven’t had one. It makes me sad, especially as one is called for at least once a week, yet it never happens. Yet it doesn’t make me as sad as the fact that I’ve been going through a writing drought, as well, for a number of reasons. I hadn’t really realized what those reasons were, but I think I’ve started to figure it out.
I wrote at work and started to rely on that time to be my only writing time. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to write during my shifts, so why not capitalize on that? Yet when I have other things come up for work, obviously, that takes priority and recently, work has been more demanding, so writing has occurred less. Not to mention the fact that I’m starting to get to know my staff more, so I talk with them more throughout my shifts than earlier on, when I was too timid to say hello to my own staff. (I know, definite facepalm moment there).
I also finally caved and bought The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt for PS4 and even though I haven’t been playing it constantly, that is definitely a factor (because I definitely want to be playing it constantly). And I’m trying to take my dog on daily 30-40 minute walks. And I’m in the middle of editing two other novels for two friends. And searching for a full-time job. Plus other things like showering, eating, getting ready for work, commuting to work and sleeping are mixed in (and with the sleeping bit, that usually involves sleeping in too late). Not to mention other projects and things I have going on that bite into time throughout the day.
Bring everything together and a week has passed and I haven’t worked on my latest novel at all. Yet thinking about writing this post and I knew all of those elements combined weren’t the main reason why I hadn’t been writing much lately.
Many of you know, I have a trilogy already written. And this novel is completely different from that trilogy. I’m roughly adapting it from a full-length screenplay I wrote my senior year of undergrad–though much has changed and evolved since the screenplay, which, once everything is said and done, I’ll have to go back and revise that, based on what has changed in the novel. And the changes are improvements, from character personalities to more logical connections to twists that make me smile and will make guts clench. Plus, though I’m not sure if it has enough meat to expand to a trilogy, it definitely has the promise to have a sequel, and my brain is slowly discovering what that entails. And that excites me.
I talk about all this just to reiterate that is novel isn’t my first novel. It isn’t my debut (though I’m still unpublished, so it could potentially be). I’ve completed three full draft novels. I’ve improved with each one and believe that as I continue to write (and I don’t see myself lacking material or ideas for a very long time, as my list of ideas to be written is much longer that what I’ve already written). Yet writing that first trilogy, I carried a mindset of naiveté that I obviously didn’t realize I had until looking back and being more informed. That naiveté surrounded the publishing industry. I had no idea how many words a fantasy novel should reach or not go past, so when I finished my first draft of my first novel at roughly 120k (and it has only grown since), I didn’t realize that could be an immediate turn-off for agents towards an amateur writer. I was just stoked I wrote a novel that was over 200 single-spaced pages and actually finished it. I wasn’t familiar with the terminology (I always called my books novels, not manuscripts) or the ins and outs of the business. And I’m no expert now. But I’m more informed. I’m more aware.
And I think that’s hurting me.
Instead of getting lost in the story, the word count expectations are sitting in the back of my mind. The closer I get to the end (and I’m closer to the end than I realized), the more I’m thinking, You need a higher word count. What does that mean about the strength of your story, the strength of your plot? Of course I don’t think, Hey, you might be becoming better at being more precise. Of course I lean towards the negative instead of the positive. Something I need to work on. Or I’m thinking about how I’m going to query instead of trying to tune into my characters and what they are dealing with. Instead of getting stoked about writing and enjoying it, I’m getting nervous that it isn’t publishable because of X or Y or Z.
This was a shitty realization, mostly because I’m bummed that I let myself becoming mentally affected by this. It also made me take a step back and ask myself: Why am I writing in the first place? Am I writing solely to get published? Am I writing so I can make a living as a writer without another source of income? Am I writing to impress all the agents I stalk on Twitter? Sure, some of these elements are incorporated into my dream of being published. Because yes, at the end of the day, I do want to be published. I would love to be successful enough as a writer that I wouldn’t have to work another job, so I could focus more on writing and do the fun things related to it, like traveling to conferences and meeting fans or playing video games and claiming that is research for my next novel. But is that the main reason that I write?
No, it bloody hell is not.
The main reason I write is because that’s the core of my being. These stories are in my head and I write them to stay sane. I write them because I love doing it. I write them because they are stories that deserve to be told. Do I want them to be read? Of course. Would I love to be published so that could happen? Definitely. But letting the fears that it won’t ever be publish hinder me from writing it down in the first place isn’t okay, no matter how valid some of those fears might be. Why? Because that’s what editing is for. But my favorite mantra is, “You can’t edit a blank page.” And I shouldn’t worry about those potential problems when the first draft isn’t even fully written yet, because even if those problems do exist, I can fix them later. But I need to write. And I’m tired of my self-conscious trying to stop me.
So, I’m going to end this here and see if I can get a solid thousand words in during the last hour of my work shift. Take that, drought.