My first novel wasn’t my first novel. I had written two, undeniably worse ones, years before, but this one was special. It was a story that I knew deserved more than just a place on my computer. So I edited the heck out of that thing. I spent years rewriting, polishing, and crying in a fetal position in my closet over it before it was finally ready. I learned things that upset my previous notions of writing a novel.
1. You will hate your novel.
Not just occasionally, but often. Your characters will try your patience. Plot difficulties will steal your sleep. By the time you get to the publishing point, you will be so over the bright and shiny that once was, that you won’t be able to open it without eye rolls and teeth grinding. Which leads us to the second truth.
2. You may not read it again for a while.
For two years after publishing my book I was still numb from the aftereffects of intense line-by-line editing. I just couldn’t read it again. But with time and distance, I did read it again and actually enjoyed it, leading to the next point.
3. People will tell you that you did something amazing, and you should listen to them. Look, I know it’s easy, especially for the self-critical among us, to focus on those things we could have done better. But you wrote a novel. So even though you want to answer congratulations with a “Yeah, but its not that good,” don’t. Writing a novel is something you are entitled to be proud of.
4. It will make you a better writer.
Whether it’s the breakout novel of 2015 or something that sells ten copies, writing a novel will improve your skills immeasurably. You will become a more constructive editor and a better reader. Even if you don’t publish, it will train you to look at stories from different angles and learn what works. Which leads us to the last epiphany.
5. You’ll never really be done.
I’ve yet to meet a writer who finished their last edit, sent it off, and dropped their laptop like a mic in a rap battle (“Reichert is OUT!”). You may have to drag yourself through the stages of bipolar-like grief after finishing something that has taken up so much of your existence. But chances are, you’re already beginning a new one before the first is done.
Finishing a novel is like having a child graduate. You’ll cry and miss them, but you’ll be happy to see them out in the world doing what you raised them to do. And, let’s face it: the spare bedroom and extra food in the fridge are nice. If you’re still in the process, don’t stop. You may not always be running with it, but never stop moving forward. There’s a finish line up there, and you will reach it if you keep putting one word in front of another. Good luck, Writer.
Sarah Reichert is a writer, novelist, poet and blogger. She is a member of the Northern Colorado Writers group. Sarah is the author of Fixing Destiny, the first in a series of paranormal romances set in Maine. The second book in the series Finding Destiny is due out in the Fall of 2015. Her work has been featured in The Fort Collins Coloradoan, Haunted Waters Press, and Tuliptree Publishing’s 100-Word Dash. Reichert lives in Fort Collins with her family.