I started writing my first novel fifteen months ago. I wrote 50,000 words during the month of November 2009, and was feeling pretty good about my writing abilities. Yay me.
The problem was that I went into that November with no other writing skills than what I had learned in high school and college. And about a week’s preparation for Nanowrimo. Honestly, I just wanted to see if I could actually write that many words, and I was surprised when I did.
I think more than my own abilities, those 50,000 words were a blessing from God, filled with his strength during a time that I felt lost, confused and weak.
January 2010: I have 50,000 words, absolutely no idea of what to do next, and the sinking realization that I don’t know all that much about the craft of writing. And that’s when all the creative writing parts of my brain went on strike.
I have no previous experience with a creative block like this — a year later, we’re still in negotiations — and so I returned to what I know best. Reading.
Over the past year, I have not written — other than a few blog posts — but I have forced myself out of my comfortable reading zone. Instead of Jan Karon and Francine Rivers books over and over, I chose books I didn’t think I would like in genres I had never considered reading before. Including making my sweetie very happy by finally reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I really enjoyed. (Who knew scifi could be so funny and witty.)
And I read about writing. Blogs, magazines, books.
As I’ve read, I’ve tried to pay attention. To writing styles that I like, and ones that I don’t. To advice from other writers, and from literary agents.
I don’t know if this is the best way to deal with writers block or not, but for me, it appears to be working. Last week I opened up my novel again and began reading with a highlighter and a pen. After cutting two-thirds of my word count (yes, I’m serious. I then deleted those words from my laptop and shredded the evidence.) I began brainstorming.
I have far fewer words now, but a better idea of how to keep going. And even though I had to cut a majority of my novel, I surprised myself by really liking some parts. Maybe there’s hope for me yet!
So will I ever finish this novel? Yes, Lord willing. Within the next decade? I certainly hope so.