As disgusting as that sounds, trusting my gut is one thing I’m having to learn as I navigate the terrifying, choppy waters of writing my first novel. Trying to get published is the ultimate battle with self-confidence–the idea of facing rejection after rejection, possibly years of rejection, before you finally find someone who believes that your product is good enough to be spread around the world.
For six months, I struggled with a regency that went from being more traditional a la Georgette Heyer, with spy elements, to becoming a novel about an ex-soldier and a woman shunned by society because of one mistake. I’d rewritten those first few chapters and plotted again and again whole arcs of the novel, but it still felt artificial. I was going nowhere fast, until I started to dread sitting at home and writing. I made excuse upon excuse, unable to face the fact that while I loved these characters, the book was just not working. I didn’t have the confidence that the book could make it, and the simple idea of finishing it made me want to go sit in a corner and cry. (As woeful writers are apt to do, or maybe that’s just me.)
I was sure that I had to keep going, convinced that if I didn’t make this one book work I was an absolute failure. But what I failed to realize is that the great thing about being a writer is that at any given time, you have about fifteen possible plot ideas spinning around in your brain. One night, I let loose and after booting up my Write or Die program, I typed out 1,000 words on a new project. It was fresh and it was vibrant and it felt…real to me. The beginning had seized me and I wasn’t willing to let it go.
I told myself that I should keep working on the problem novel, but a chance conversation with author Kieran Kramer (the nicest person you will ever speak to, trust me) convinced me that I should go with my gut. I’m not a published author, and I’m not working under anyone else’s deadline but my own. At this point in my writing career–because it is a career, even if I haven’t made money out of it yet–I’m able to say “you know what, this project isn’t working. It might work sometime in the future, but writing is supposed to at least be a bit fun and this definitely isn’t.”
After I finished Chapter One, I sent it out to some critique partners, just to know if I had something. One by one, the response came back that they loved it, and that to them it felt far more “like me” than my other regency. I’m lucky that I have critique partners who I trust implicitly, like Olivia Kelly, Lisa Lin, and Jennelle Holland.
I needed that little bit of encouragement to really reach out and seize the day. Motivated by my fellow blog sister, Amy Pfaff, who just finished the first draft of her book, I told myself that you know what, I could do this.
I’ve set a goal to have a finished draft by early next year, and most days (as long as I don’t think of the 80,000 words to go) I’m feeling more encouraged. I don’t know if this is the book that will be my grand debut into authordom, but I do know I’m happier now. I’m writing something that I believe in, that feels genuine and has a set-up that interests me. I stopped trying to write to everyone else, and now I just write to me.
As long as I keep remembering that in this stage I don’t have to please anyone but myself, then I’ll be successful. I need to learn to just write it out, and use of the Write or Die program is definitely helping me to do that. Separated from my negative voices, I’m trying to learn to trust myself and my lovely, gross-sounding, gut.
Maybe by the end of this process, I’ll come out wanting to do this.