Last week I handed The Children of the Mist (my fantasy novel) to an Editor for the first time. I thought I’d share the emotions I felt a provide a wee update on my next steps.
Relief…or disbelief? Maybe?
When I started writing my book I didn’t know anything about story structure or how to plot. Like all writers I also struggle with self-doubt and perfectionism, so writing this novel often felt like an uphill battle. Most days I lost, but some days I won – only to realise that it was a false victory after all and I was back to square one.
When I finally hit ‘send’ on my manuscript it almost felt too good to be true. For years my norm has been struggling to write a book. Could I have actually, finally written an entire book, beginning to end?
In hindsight, maybe the numb, disbelief was my burnout brain attempting joy 😂
Writing a novel is hard. Mine was complicated further by the fact that I was attempting to graft structure onto an absolute boorach*. Sometimes writing a book feels less an exercise in creating something new but excavating layers of dirt and detritus to find the skeleton that has been there all along. It is an exercise in patience, perseverance and self-belief - and incredibly satisfying to hold that excavated treasure in your hands after years of digging.
*boorachn. (Scots), a mound, an untidy heap
Years ago, when the prospect of finishing my novel was but a distant dream, I read Zadie Smith describing how, after she’d finished the first draft of one of her novels, she took the bottle of champagne she’d had on standby from the fridge into the garden, sat down and drank by herself. A bittersweet victory – the novel was done, thank Christ. But she also felt bereft. Working intensely on a project for months, maybe even years, fills you with purpose. Once the project is complete that purpose disappears with it. I certainly feel a little lost.
I think these bittersweet, less than euphoric feelings are natural. I know that my manuscript isn’t truly finished – the Editor will come back to me with a pile of edit notes and the process will start all over again. Sending Children of the Mist to an Editor was the end of one part of the process, not the definitive, glass-clinking, confetti scattering end.
As it stands, my bottle of champagne is still sitting uncorked in the cupboard 😂
SO, WHAT’S NEXT?
My manuscript comes back to me mid-September. In that time I’d like to achieve three things:
Outline the second book
This one is obvious – I might have finished my first novel but if I want to make a career out of writing I’ll always need another book. I’m looking forward to implementing some of the tips and tricks I learned while writing my first novel, so hopefully the second will be quicker to write.
Share more of my writing
The biggest obstacle I need to overcome in terms of writing is sharing my work. I feel intense dread around it – even my closest friends and family have yet to read a word of my novel. This is a little ironic considering the entire point of becoming an author is to have your stories read.
I struggle with perfectionism – not in a Oh, she’s such a perfectionist it’s an asset to the company kind of way but in the sense that I’ve rewritten my novel again, and again, and again (and again). I’ve lost years to the self-critical voice inside my head. My plan to overcome perfectionism is to meet my fears head-on – write, share, move on and repeat.
Expect to see a lot more of my creative writing popping up on my online channels. In real-life I’m going to pluck up the courage to let friends and family read my work.
Re-establish a creative routine
While editing my writer’s notebook has fallen by the wayside and I feel the loss of this creative habit, which kept me inspired and motivated to write as much as I could. I want a long career writing books, so improving my craft is a continual goal. Keeping a writer’s notebook was a great way to hone style, experiment with POV or practise dialogue.
Going forward I’d like to establish a writing routine that allows plenty time for good creative habits and self-improvement alongside writing the thing. Writing exercises, reading books on craft and perhaps even retreats and classes - I need to make time for the things that fill my creative well and continually improve my craft.