at starbucks taking selfies of my writing process today
There are so many excellent blogs and articles and books on this topic. As someone who has not finished even one manuscript I cannot tote myself an expert – not even a little bit. But, I assume if you are reading this you are curious about the novel writing process, or maybe just mine. So, here goes…
How I got started…
When I was six my first grade teacher asked our class what we wanted to be when we grew up. A lot of boys said Firefighters or Policemen or Pilots (not the lawyers or store managers or electrical engineers they would become) and a lot of the girls said Nurses, Mommies, and also, Firefighters (maybe the girls were a little more reality-based than they boys, but that’s a blog for another time).
I said “I want to be an Author when I grow up.”
You should know that in 1st grade my favorite foods were camembert cheese and abalone. So yeah, I was a weird kid.
Once I learned to read I loved stories about fairies, fantasy and magic. Teachers were instructed to turn me away from windows, particularly windows with trees, because I would spend class time making up stories in my head about all the little people who skipped between branches and stole kisses behind green leaves, instead of listening to directions on how to fill out grammar worksheets. I can think of much worse ways to spend one’s easily distracted childhood. For nothing came as close to touching the magic in stories as the making of the stories themselves. Though, in retrospect I could have used the grammar lessons.
I spent years trying to reign in the ole’ imagination so I could, you know, learn how to do the simple math my phone now does for me. But, all joking aside, somewhere along the line I forgot that I wanted to write. Going through years of higher education with too much required reading and even more required writing distracted me. I learned a trade. I became an intellectual expert in sitting down with people who are suffering, called myself a therapist. I would get good at it, I would work, and then, maybe, with enough street-cred, I would retire as a writer. Become a memoirist, or something.
Along the way, I also forgot how much I loved to read. I was that kid that would come home from school, sit down with a book in the den, and read until mom had to come by and turn on a light. Sometimes I would skip dinner. I don’t know when I stopped doing this. I figured I had a hard time reading as much as I used to because I harbored a secret fear that I would love the world of my books more than my real life. Either that or it was because my real life was pretty damn busy and I had no time for reading like a child. Whatever it was, I had forgotten something intrinsically me.
Then, exactly a year ago our little family went to Hawaii for a month. (I know. I know. Hawaii. For. A. Month!!! It’s crazy and you can be jealous. Hell, I am jealous of 2012 Erin right now. I could tell you that leading up to the trip we had a total sh*t year and we deserved it, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. We did have a horribly stressful year, but no one deserves luxury. We are lucky and blessed and insanely grateful. That’s it.). I made a single goal for the trip: to read 10 books.
2 of the books I read were written by friends of mine (both worth a read, by the way). It was in their reading that I realized something terrible about myself over the last decade. I was a pissed-off cranky reader. I had stopped being generous, I had stopped enjoying the process. It was because my friends were so like me that I was sent into a tailspin of insane jealousy. Like, so out-of-mind covetous. And it wasn’t just Megan and Anne, it was every author I ever read. I was, so effing sick with envy that I had suppressed my childhood insatiable desire for books. It wasn’t that I had been busy. It wasn’t the fear of real life being less real that fictional life. It wasn’t even the pages upon pages of research paper writing. It was pure raging, green as jade, gouge out my eyeballs, jealousy.
While reading a entirely different YA fiction and after the hundredth audible groan/sigh/growl by me, Mr. Man said, “Erin, what is your problem?” only kinder (he is always kinder than I report).
I responded, “I think I need to write a book.”
To which, he said, “Ok. Then why don’t you do it already.”
So, I started writing my thoughts in a moleskine journal. They were all over the place. I knew I wanted to write about a teenager. I knew I didn’t want to write a dystopian novel (though i heart them muchos). And, that was about it.
I wrote at night and kept a google-doc open on multiple devices around the house, adding sentences here and there. In February I started writing one full day a week, thanks to my sister watching my kiddos. I made headway. I picked up more books to read. I feel back in love with reading.
And, frankly, if I never finish this novel, if it never makes its way into a stranger’s hands, if it just sits in my computer title-less, I will still be grateful. Because, I am trying, and I am writing, and it feels like breathing.
I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them
Stay tuned for How to Write a Novel // Part 2: My Tale of Finding a Character Worth Loving