I made a tough decision, but I think the right decision, about my writing. Since January 2008 I’ve been working sporadically on a novel attempt, and this week I’ve decided to stop working on it. This is another big bulk, 116 pages, to put in the writing attempt drawer in my desk in my bedroom. The big reason for stopping this is consistency with it, and in that vane I’m going to write out completely my reasons to stop this writing attempt, with the idea of writing regularly, writing anything regularly, needs to happen before I try this novel again.
I really do think I have something with the story line of this attempt, and think at some point I need to write it. It’s definitely the story I have to tell, that I want to tell, that I will tell at some point. From what I’ve read about successful first time novels the authors wrote steadily, if not with an exact deadline, at least with a timeframe. Some authors wrote in a month, six months, or a couple of years. But after their research is done, story planned out, I believe they wrote with some type of rhythm. Also I think most published authors wrote regularly years before they actually got a book published.
Here is what I did. In the fall of 2007 I created an outline from a story I wrote in Kent around 2003. The whole idea came quickly to me, and finally my daydreams were focused to kind of an epic magical realism exaggeration of my own life. I was really excited, and I wrote a three page single page outline of it. I planned three parts and made one page outlines for the first ten chapters of the first part. In January of 2008 I started it.
The little intro and first chapter I wrote by hand quickly, probably in a week or so. Then I decided to type out that chapter, which is kind of a draft and a half. I printed it out and liked what I wrote, quickly I wrote the second chapter, typed it, and I thought it was coming along smoothly. That February I vacationed with my parents in Florida. That vacation was great and I wrote by hand chapters three and four between walks on the beach and reading Manchild in the Promise Land by Claude Brown. After I got back from vacation I typed out chapters three and four, and had about 49 pages. After two months I had 49 pages and now have 116 after twenty months. The rest of that winter and spring I don’t think I worked on it. That June or July I wrote and typed chapter five and emailed it to about ten people. My family responded, and one or two of my friends gave me feedback, but in general the people I emailed did not give me feedback. I should not have expected feedback, because now I believe a writer is the one asking the favor for feedback. And it is a favor not a requirement, unless you pay an editor. But at the time, it may have increased my self doubts about the novel attempt because I assumed people did not respond because they did not like it. That was about a year ago, and my pattern since then was to write a chapter quickly, type it out and stop for three or more months. The results are 116 pages but only nine chapters. That’s not cutting it to complete the novel.
There are other problems like a lack of research and grammar woes, but the worst of it was the lack of routine. I did not write or work on it regularly. The story is laid out in my mind, but my dedication to writing it down is not there. What I need to do is work on making writing a routine, something I do week after week. A novel takes a lot of planning and thought so perhaps as a novice writer a novel attempt is not the best way to learn the craft.
My game plan for practicing writing is to write smaller pieces. I’m excited about my wordpress blog now that I have internet access at my apartment. I don’t expect a ton of people to read it, but the potential that people could read it may be an incentive to post regularly. Since I have internet in my apartment now, anything I write I can simply paste it into that. Before I had access in my apartment I’d save my writing to a floppy and go to an internet café or go to work early to post or email material. So now it’s easy, and I should take advantage of that by having a goal or posting something, anything, twice a week or more. This writing is not that structured or revised as a submission, but I believe the act of doing this will improve my writing. Everything I post I’d like to be around or over a thousand words, which might be more than what people want to read online, but a good amount to think, and analyze a thought in writing. So a year from now with two blog posts a week, I hope to have over a hundred blog posts. At some times this will be forced, and I may not want to do it, but sometimes practice with anything has to be forced in order to improve. In addition to the blog entries, I have a goal of writing an essay or short story once a month to send out for publication. If I’m able to do these two goals of the blog and submissions, over time writing will be a routine, a part of my life.
I think the only way I’ll ever write I novel in my life if I make writing a routine, and something I do over a prolonged period. Just like reading literature, exercise, and skateboarding I want writing a solid routine in my spare time. I have a career, and I do not get paid to write, so it does not matter if I write the novel this year, five years, or twenty years from now.