Good Grief (and Chapter 1 again!)

My novel is coming along nicely…

My novel is coming along nicely…

My novel is coming along nicely…

OK, if I keep saying those exact words to myself over and over, I might actually believe them! In reality, I would say my novel is between 85% and 90% complete. And by complete, I mean that I am nearly finished my first draft. Which would have sounded really good to me when I first started this process.

But now, I realize that finishing my first draft isn’t anywhere close to what people think when I say I’m “writing a novel.” People—like myself about a year ago—think that when someone says they’re writing a novel that it goes like this: (A) you write the novel and then (B) the novel gets published. As if it was a seamless process requiring enormous effort (no doubt!) but with guaranteed results.

Now I know how preposterous this is.

Nothing is guaranteed. Not in life. Not in this process. Everyone assumes that because I am a decent writer, I can write a decent book. Not necessarily. The doubts and fears, along with the excitement and anticipation, I am experiencing have surprised me a little bit. But at some point, it occurred to me that that writing a novel is much like going through the stages of grief.

In case you don’t know about these stages, let me enlighten you to the wonder of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and the Five Stages of Grief.

OK, so no one died during the writing of my novel (at least not literally!), but the stages are real. Let me elaborate on each:

Stage 1: DENIAL

I’m writing a novel! Yes, it’s hard work, but I’m dedicated, I have a good story to tell, and I write well. I’m going to write the next Great American Novel! It’s going to be a New York Times best-seller! It’s gonna be a piece of cake!

Stage 2: ANGER

Wow! This novel-writing thing is hard. I mean, really hard. Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this difficult? OK, so maybe they did, but I didn’t believe them. I’ve been writing every single day for about a year, but most of what I’ve written lately is crap. I mean, the story goes nowhere. I don’t think I’d even read this drivel. I have months of editing ahead of me. This sucks.

Stage 3: BARGAINING

OK, I had a really good idea at the beginning. I just lost steam about mid-way through the damn thing. It just needs some reorganizing and fine-tuning. Maybe if I write two or three alternate endings, one of them will jump out at me as THE ONE. Or if I had just one more good scene pop into my head. I promise to keep writing, but only if I just get one more good idea.

Stage 4: DEPRESSION

I suck. This novel sucks. My characters suck. I never should have started writing this thing. I never should have told a soul I was trying to write it. I look like an idiot. No one will ever buy my book, except maybe my dad and my one friend because I used her name for one of the characters. This is a waste of my time. I am the worst writer in the world.

Stage 5: ACCEPTANCE

OK, so this is hard but not impossible. My novel has potential, but it will take time to edit and revamp. I write well, and it’s a good story. I need to have patience and faith that it will end up as a story that I am proud of, even if it’s not perfect. Even if it’s not the Great American Novel. And even if my dad is the only one who buys it.

For those of you new to my blog, did you know that I posted Chapter 1 a few weeks ago? It’s rough and unedited, but it’s MINE. And I’d like you to read it. Feedback is always appreciated! Click HERE to read it!

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