When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a totally horrible shitty first novel. It was called Affinity for Darkness, and you can read it here because when I was in my early thirties, I posted this totally horrible shitty first novel in public.
It was supposed to have something to do with humility and something to do with toughening up, posting this hot mess of a novel. It was supposed to be an exercise in posting something that I knew was really bad so that I’d feel less self-conscious about posting the work that I hope is passably good. I don’t know how well that worked, especially because I hemmed and hawed and cringed and winced every time I was going to hit “publish” on another post of another chapter of this shitty first novel.
Yesterday was my target date. I was supposed to have the next draft of the book totally DONE.
Technically, I made it. Sometime Wednesday morning before work, I finished revising the last paragraph of the last chapter. I want to talk some about the process of writing this book.
It all started the first summer I lived on Orcas Island. I’d just made it out of hell and narrowly escaped homelessness in Seattle. I was offered a kitchen job at the camp that offered housing, which was my own room to myself, and food, and year-round work, sort of. I was staying somewhere, for the first time in years. I wasn’t fully on my feet but for once I didn’t have to worry about basic survival.
It’s a proven fact in my life: I get more done creatively when I’m working. I work at a YMCA camp, doing dishes and prep cook stuff. The days when I’m scheduled to go in, I get up, put in some hours on my book, take care of errands, and go in for my evening shift.
On the days that I don’t have work, I take naps, go on instant messenger, do nothing, tell myself I’ll get to my book later. I think the downtime is good for sure, and that my mind, heart, body and spirit need the rest and relaxation. I just find it a bit odd that I get my best creative work done when I’m also working.
I’m now about midway through the third draft of my first book, a memoir, tentatively titled Moonchild.
Well, that is, first book if you don’t count the “book” I wrote in high school, a novel about a group of teenagers on a cabin trip who discover that they are vampires and struggle with how to deal with that. I wrote it all, and edited a lot, then sent it to a friend’s English teacher (since I wanted the opinion of someone who didn’t know me, who’d be unbiased), and edited some more. I looked back at it while in college and was mortified, and so glad I’d never done anything with it!
So, now here I am, ten years later, working on another book and right in the middle of the re-writing process.
So, my friend Linda and I have set Sept. 15 as the target date to finish our manuscripts. She’s writing a really awesome novel with immensely compelling characters and gorgeous prose. I’ve read a few earlier versions and have seen her novel evolve and grow stronger, more immediate and more specific. I have supreme faith that hers will be polished and perfected by our due date.
I’m a little less sure about my own, and maybe it’s simply because it’s my own. I worry that it isn’t compelling enough, that characters aren’t distinct enough, that people won’t relate, and the like. I suppose everyone worries that about their own work, and maybe it’s a good thing to be concerned with these things, because I’ll be conscious of them in the back of my mind at least, during revisions.