Writing the first novel is equivalent to giving birth to your first child. It is just that the gestation period for a baby is nine months and that for the novel can take years. In my case It has taken more than five years out of which more than half the period was spent fighting the writer’s block. This post is to pen down what I learnt from the process and felt through. The aim is to share my experience with those who want to put their first story to print and others who want to know how it feels.
Captive of the imaginary world
Face it, we are all captives of that world, among those people who we think we created. Like many authors (or authors in the making), I feel that they are not the characters who we created, but those who existed in a world not known to us and simply chose us to become their medium. Yes our worlds are as real in our minds as this one and our characters are as real. They move before our eyes, living to achieve their aims and standing by their beliefs and principles, at times inspiring you, at times annoying you, at times leaving you in a whirlwind of uncertainties as you grapple with that blank page where the scenes raging in your mind refuse to come out of your fingers. Neither do they let you go about your life in peace. But do what you can, you helplessly love them. If you do, then I think you are on the right track in believing your own story.
Writing Blocks – Live with them but keep your faith
I am not ashamed to say this. The first time I put my story in writing, it was almost five years before. Have trashed two full drafts and a countless number of half drafts. I can go and say that in the last five years, I might have faced a writing block of more than three years. This, I attribute to my failure to make writing into a discipline or a routine and commit to myself about writing 500-1000 words every day. It was easier to put it on the ‘inspiration’, ‘characters’, ‘job’, ‘boss’ (I can’t blame my husband for everything ;-))
What could also have helped me overcome my block is more regular reading. Towards the end, I discovered that reading does help when you are stuck. Just that one might need to work his or her way out of being influenced. Either ways, a badly written page is much better than a blank
Encouraging family and friends – They go a long way
It helps to share the problems in writing with friends and family. We feel that only a writer can understand another writer’s problem. But believe in the magic of your mom saying ‘if not you, who can do it.’ or your best friend saying, ‘I will kill you if you give it up’. It worked in my case.
I also learnt to send drafts of whatever I wrote to some very encouraging beta readers. I can’t express in words what their support meant to me. Networking with other writers, the travellers in the same boat, does go a longer way. A chat with experienced people helps. Karma turns around, so be generous with the good side of it. I was lucky to be blessed with many writers who were genuine and generous with guidance.
I was also blessed to have some lovely friends who contributed in more than one way. I shall take all their names in another befitting post (the list is a bit long).
Can you keep your faith?
After trashing close to 280,000 words before this current draft which I am not yet sure if it is final (Currently a professional editor is working on it and she too, I feel is a gift of this universe to my endeavours), one question remains. Can I keep my faith. I think I will. This is my commitment to my characters. I owe them that. Call it serendipity or my own inner voice. I have my principal character saying these words in my manuscript. They shall be my inspiration for now and for life.
Hope this will be of some use to others who want to know how it feels and what one passes through. The journey is arduous but immensely fulfilling. I have only completed a draft and it still has quite some distance to go before it becomes a book. Hoping to get there soon.