Though the title implies that I’m going to be talking about books I’ve read, that’s not really true. I definitely discovered a few gems this past year — my favorites were Just Kids by Patti Smith and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. But when I say I was immersed in books in 2015, I’m talking specifically about one book: mine.
I finished my first manuscript ever this past year. It was in November, at around 1:30am on a Monday morning. I was so wired that I couldn’t get to sleep for another hour and a half. I paced back and forth in my tiny bedroom, shaking out my hands as if I’d burned them. Which, considering the magical abilities of one of my protagonists, is an oddly appropriate reaction for me to have.
The experience was immersive and repulsive at the same time. I was confronted with many of the problems I need to fix in my prose, some of them so bad that I’d feel sick rereading my work from the previous day. In previous years, this would’ve scared me away from my computer, and I would’ve avoided writing until I dragged myself back to my desk weeks later, unable to deny that putting word after word until they make a story is the only thing that really gives me a sense of accomplishment and peace.
This time, I didn’t do that. This time, I sat my ass in the chair and would not let myself get up until I had reached my word count goal for the day.
“Just get up for a minute,” my shoulder devil said. “Just go warm up your cup of coffee. Just take a walk in the woods. Just read about how other successful writers manage to make themselves finish things. Surely their advice will help you. Surely you will not be distracted by other shiny links to other articles about other things that aren’t at all related to what you’re trying to do here.”
But ah, the shoulder devil didn’t realize that I am older and wiser than I used to be. I knew that if I set down any of these paths, it was the equivalent of entering into a black hole, and soon that entire day would be gone. I would be lying if I said that she never won out, because sometimes she did, and I lost the equivalent of a couple of weeks. But as time went on, something miraculous happened. It became easier and easier to say, “Shush. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
So I kept going, and a year after I started, I was up in the middle of the night staring at a huge pile of printer paper, and on that paper was a story that I created. I felt as though I’d come up for air after a journey to an underwater city, and the magic of everything I’d seen hit me all at once.
In all this melodramatic euphoria, there was a reality I was overlooking. The manuscript totaled over 143,000 words. This is 50,000 words above my original goal. Needless to say, this is bad, but it didn’t get me down. Nothing could get me down that night.
But that night only lasted for a few more hours, and when I woke up the next morning, my immediate thought was, “Oh my glob I need to cut out over a third of my manuscript.” My second thought was, “Give yourself a little time.” So that’s what I’ve been doing – giving myself space so that I can look at the manuscript with fresh eyes.
That break time is winding down now, and I’m getting ready to hop back into it. In the meantime, I’ve been making some reading-writing goals for the new year, and I thought I’d share them here:
1) Read more YA lit.
Disclaimer: I write mostly YA. So when I looked at my Goodreads 2015-in-review page and saw that I only read a handful of YA novels, I got the O_O face. I’m a firm believer that one needs to be well-versed in the genre in which they write. The challenge that I run into is that reading YA while writing YA can lead me to some problems — specifically, my writing style begins to look suspiciously like that of the book I’m reading. So I need to find a way to incorporate more YA into my 2016, and one of my goals is to figure out how to do this while maintaining my own voice in my writing. The specific goal I’ve set for myself is twenty YA books. I’m starting now with Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper.
2) Complete my first standalone novel.
I’ve had the idea for a story about a girl who is on the run from an evil queen for a while, and I think it’s finally past the embryonic stage and I’m going to be able to get it on the page this year. This book will be a standalone novel, which will be a new experience for me, since my previous manuscript is the first in a four-book series. I’m excited to see how the process for writing a complete story pushes me in a new way.
And last, but definitely not least:
3) Complete revisions of my first manuscript and submit it to literary agents.
This is a big one. The one I’m most excited and nervous about. My manuscript needs a lot of work. A monstrous, painful amount of work. But I’ve been getting myself ready to revise and submit for a while now, and when the time comes and I’ve done all I can do with my manuscript, I believe I’ll be ready.
So here’s to 2016. Let’s see where it goes.