Updated: May 19, 2020
Hitting the 45,000 word mark in my manuscript was a milestone. Beginning chapter ten was special. Taking a moment to reflect on my accomplishment as a now seasoned wordsmith, I basked in my own personal glory. All those words accompanied by an unimaginable amount of letters filling up the blank pages on my computer monitor washed over me with a warm sense of pride. Only true authors know this sensational high of achievement, and after taking a fond scroll back through previous entries in my novel, I can tell you, I was pretty high, man.
Then I came down. Hard. Crashing, spiraling, and bumbling back to earth in the most clumsy and messy way possible.
I was struck with the realization that I had barely entered the primordial ooze that would be the genesis of the second half of my book. Penning - or typing in this case - a young adult story, I didn’t expect to walk away with a thick doorstop of a book, but even being shorter by design, I had only just begun to scratch the surface of getting anywhere near finished.
I had in my proud possession an incomplete, unedited first draft of a manuscript written by me, a first-time writer. The thought of repeated and/or unnecessary words crept in, clawing up my brainstem with icy hands. The nightmarish vision of the process of self-editing my precious novel was enough to induce a cold sweat or two. The struggle to wrangle in beta readers was something I wasn’t looking forward to. Cutting out paragraphs, chapters, characters, and perhaps entire plotlines may as well have been torture. And I didn’t want to even think about adverbs…
As of this writing, it has been nearly a year since I wrote out the initial notes about my coming of age superhero tale. Professional or otherwise, I believe writers have this innate audacity to tell stories. Seriously, we are born with the sheer nerve to think we can contribute something fresh to the world of literature and other forms of media and art. This boldness that drives each of us scribes to dream up little yarns is also what devours us, mind, body, and spirit. I refer to it as a drive because it drives us insane. Like so many other pretentious novices before me, I had written a short story, a screenplay, etc., but the concept I started jotting down roughly twelve months ago was the one I deemed worthy of dominating my time. This story was the one the world needed. Yes, the people needed another book about a teenager who discovers he has special abilities!
During my journey into becoming a writer, there were, of course, speed bumps. Specifically, a baby bump. My wife and I found out the great news that we were expecting our first child, so naturally I experienced delays in productivity when it came to my manuscript. I wasn’t too concerned with this because I work full time - I doubt I’d be able to convince anyone I’m this hotshot professional author, so I don’t mind peeling back the curtain and saying that I have a day job. On top of these forty working hours I also attend a night course for art, specifically for illustration and graphic design. Adding a baby to the mix would only lessen the amount of writing opportunities, but I was and still am quite familiar with the absence of availability. We welcomed our son into the world early summer and let me tell you, he needs so much attention it leaves me little free time to devote to authoring. Why didn't someone tell us babies are so much work?!
Taking advantage of downtime while at the office, I was able to churn out page after page of notes for my idea. I listened to audiobooks about structuring novels - I know there are mixed feelings about audiobooks within the writing community, but I enjoy them for the sake of ease as well as giving me a different perspective on how my words would sound when read aloud. I chipped away at crafting the perfect synopsis, loglines, character descriptions and a list of settings. When selecting character names, I didn’t want to get too cutesy or too attached in case I may have to change them later. The note-taking process evolved into a stream of consciousness rambling which challenged myself to determine more logical reasons behind story elements. I wrote out questions, asking myself if a character would act a certain way or if an action fit thematically. Little by little, my developmental journal expanded into a story bible that was continuously being written. Man, I wish I had been this committed to taking notes in high school.
The passion of world-building was fun but ultimately it was a security blanket. I had the spine of my story linked together, character fashion and style documented and sketched out, and a fictional history for the city the story takes place in all ready to go. After roughly three months of logging in prep time hours, the inevitable could only be pushed away for so long. It was an ultimatum, really - put fingertips to keys and actually begin writing, or continue inputting new information into the safe space that existed within the notes.
Typed-out ideas for a book that doesn’t exist never make it on anyone’s Goodreads list so it was time. It had been time for a while. I was apprehensive, though. Starting meant having to finish. Despite the peace of mind from having the first quarter of the book mapped out, punching the keys meant commitment. It made it real.
It took longer than anticipated to complete chapter ten, but it finally got done.
Chapter eleven. Here we go.