Tell Me The Fear Subsides

one yearTonight, I wrote the final sentence of the first draft of the first novel I’ve ever started and finished. This book has gone through an interesting evolution. The first time I ever wrote the title of the book on a sheet of paper was in June 2012. Back then, I thought I was writing a poem, but I wasn’t. My journal is full of failed drafts of a poem about a relationship that had dried up a year earlier. It just never worked. I thought the idea was done, and I closed the journal to the idea of ever writing the poem of a year-long drought that lasted from the last day the speaker saw his love until the day the poem is uttered at least.

Then I got lucky. I found inspiration and I started writing a lot. This was right about March of 2013. I wrote a lot of poems in those days, and a short story or two. Some of those have even been published.

And then, I wrote it–the first sentence of a prose version of “A Year Since the Rain.” At that moment in the early spring of 2013, I thought I was writing another short story, but the characters took the story away from me, and soon I realized that the story of Alan and the women in his life was a bigger story than I had ever realized. I finally accepted that I was writing a novel.

last summerThere was a lot of human emotion coming out of me and the characters in those days, and the very human story of Alan’s heartbreak and desperation was being played out in front of the backdrop of a simultaneously magical and real place. Characters could control the weather and travel through dreams. But they all came out of me. They are mine. And now they are on the page.

I always heard that Virginia Woolf felt great pain when she published her books–a kind of writerly postpartum depression. I’m not sure that I feel that, but I do feel a lot of things.

I’m worried, for one. I know it’s nowhere near long enough. I know that it will be longer. I already know how it will be longer. That doesn’t change the fact that hit ‘save’ on a first draft that is shorter than I wanted it to be tonight. I’ll be alright on this, though. There are massive additions coming, since some characters became more important than I thought they would be originally. So length isn’t a real concern.

But I am scared. And this might be the real significant emotion. I’m getting closer to sharing this book, maybe not with the world, but with some people, and that’s scary. I believe in it, though, and I think the story is a beautiful mess of humanity and magic, and I think you’ll like it. I just have to deal with the initial fear.

Soon, I’ll be asking for beta readers and other such things. Tonight, I just needed to ramble.

How do you feel when you finish drafting something that you’re writing for public consumption?



11 thoughts on “Tell Me The Fear Subsides

  1. I don’t have the experience of writing a novel, but I did write a dissertation, and that fear that you speak of is very real. I liken it to giving birth. It is a sort of birth. I brought two children into the world, and I walk this line between wanting them to grow and to interact with others but also wanting to protect them. They came from me…they are a part of me…but they are also a part of other people’s lives, and they have a life of their own. I suppose the same is true for our writing. We give birth to it…it comes from us, and then we send it out into the world for others to read and experience and criticize.

    In the world of research, when we write, we know that we are writing so that others can build on our work. There are very specific rules that we follow, and if we want our work to be taken seriously and to be relevant, then we follow those rules. There is a very real fear of rejection or simply being disregarded. But I don’t think that’s the fear that you’re feeling. It took me 5 years to finish my degree, and for 5 years, everything that I did in school was a precursor to that final piece that I published. It was my life. This novel has been your life for a year now. You have poured yourself into it, relied on it, depended on it, made it your priority. You’ve had drinks with it. You’ve kept it close to you and protected it and only shared it with a select few. You’ve spent hours toiling over the characters and the story and letting this story emerge from you. I think the bigger fear is…what will you do when it’s finished? Where will you go from here? There’s a bit of loneliness…of missing the process…of missing the characters…just like when we finish reading a book, and we become sad that the story is over. There’s that sense of emptiness and the fear of “what’s next?” and “what now?” Dare I say…empty nest syndrome. You shouldn’t worry, though. If I know you, there will be other stories 🙂

    • You’re right. The fear is about what happens next. In Salman Rushdie’s autobiography, he tells the story of when he met Kurt Vonnegut for the first time (in the margin of my copy I have written ‘Nerdgasm!’ as these two–two of my favorites–meeting reminds me that writers do not exist in a vacuum). Vonnegut asks Rushdie, who had just published ‘Midnight’s Children,’ his most critically acclaimed book, “Are you serious about this writing business?” When Rushdie says he is, Vonnegut says “Then you should know that the day is going to come when you won’t have a book to write, and you’re still going to have to write a book.”

      Terrifying…but exciting. The longer I sit on it, the better I feel. Thank you for your amazing comment. You crushed it.

  2. Congratulations on finishing that first draft! I’ve written the first drafts of several short novels, but I’ve never revised them to submit for publication. I send out short stories on a regular basis, and it’s still an unnerving experience. But if I’m submitting a story, then that means I believe in it, that I’ve written and revised it to the best of my ability. You’ll get over your initial fear. Receiving feedback from your beta readers will help.

  3. Well, congratulations are an order. I am nearing the end of my own first draft. Terrifying. I am told by other wise and published authors to “celebrate each victory”. That is was what you have, a victory. Writing can be heartbreaking enough, so take time to appreciate your wins. Drink champagne, listen to music, do a little jig. Then comes editing…ugh…editing.

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