What I Learned Writing My Novel: Taking Too Long

I just realized that I had scheduled myself to release my first Pulling the Trigger post on today, with yesterday being the day I discussed what I learned writing.

Luckily, I already had a topic in mind.

I started “writing” when I was ten or eleven.Mostly, I wrote the content for things me and my friends played at. Off the top of my head, I remember one where we were all mutated animals fighting an international conglomerate that harvested energy crystals on Mars. In another we were in a medieval world where people could fuze themselves with living weapons to become magical warriors. In my favorite one we were survivors from a town that was destroyed, trekking across my fantasy world, fighting an evil Emporer with our spirit monsters (I had a dragon, my best friend had a golem I think).

It wasn’t until I was thirteen or fourteen that I started writing a real narrative. Before, it was always world building, character bios, things like that. My first story (which will never see the light of day) was a high fantasy with religious overtones. I had no outline, no characters, no idea what was going on and didn’t get very far. My second story began a year or so after that because I refused to write after “failing” at the first story. One day I was sitting in a bible study doodling on a notepad when I came up with a design for a world. All it contained was the map for the land they would be in, but it exploded into reams of world building, character notes, and a hefty three book outline. Unfortunately, I only churned out the same amount of chapters as the first. It was’t very good either, it was a dark fantasy and everyone was moody, but it was better than the first. Still unfinished, but I’d like to hope that could see the light of day sometime.

I made my third attempt shortly after I was married. It was based on a short story I wrote (and didn’t finish) when I was eighteen. I actually found that short story late last year and I was pretty happy with it. All it shared with the story I am publishing in 25 days (Ah! I added a countdown!) was the main character’s first name and the overall plot device.

That would have been about five years ago. Maybe that doesn’t sound too long to you, but to me it was a long damn time ago. In the time since I wrote that short story I…got married, bought a house, moved out of my parent’s house, changed schools, graduated, changed careers, had a son, started a masters, my wife changed careers and started attending nursing school.

So, yeah, long time.

I’m a completely different person since I wrote that short story, different even from the person who then came back and decided to expand it. Half of the work I’ve put in the last year was sanding out the rough edges of this novel. Literally, that has been half the work, probably more. I had plot changes, world changes, theme changes, a magic system that changed with my mood, and a dozen other things that have become more and less important as my life has changed and reflected in the story.

I took as long as I damn well pleased, knowing that I could change things all along because it didn’t matter. When it doesn’t matter, when you’re not shooting for something, you will never get there. I never intended on finishing the book. I still can’t believe it is finished! My second book has over seventy thousand words in it, and that took me six months. I hope to be done with it by the end of the year. I’ve taken way too much time away from it as I get Sorcerer Rising out the door, but it will be the first thing I do once that is completed, focus on getting the second out. And the third. Fourth. Fifth. Short stories on the side, this blog, all the things that I want to do but took too long to do, piddled with.

The point is, what I learned writing my book, was that if I wanted to write a book, all I had to do, was write a book. When my wife decided to go back to school, we knew that summer was the last free time we were going to have. My son was only a few months old, and I wanted to do what I had been dreaming of doing for ten years. So beginning around April or May, I can’t really remember, I started working on the story. Revamped the outline, the plot, added characters, rewrote what I had, then started writing new content.

By the end of the summer, I had my first draft, my first completed story. It was more coherent, with better characters, better world building, a stronger theme. That took a lot of work, and a lot of work since to tighten it down.

To write your book, your short story, your screenplay, your song, your poem, all you have to do is write. It doesn’t have to be every day, it doesn’t have to be a certain amount of words, it doesn’t have to be anything that anyone says, it just has to be what you need it to be to produce content. If you’re like me (undisciplined, short attention span, easily bored, etc) than you probably need to do it quick, but your mileage will vary.

A lot of people would be benefited by a book taking longer to write. Look at Patrick Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin. For me though, I know that I could have written faster, could have written better. Maybe it wouldn’t be what it is now, we can never predict that, but if I had been consistent I would have five novels instead of one and a half. I would be better for it.

So if you’re waiting to write or have something languishing in the background waiting to be finished, go and work on it. Work out whatever schedule works for you and make it happen.

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About enathansisk

My name is Nathan Sisk, and I am a writer and aspiring author.
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