There have been three novels I have finished over the years and never managed to revise. A fact that remains vivid in my mind is that “you’re not a writer if you’re not published” were my cousin’s words of support and I believed them for many years but I also kept writing. Since 2011 I have been working on a fantasy series and I’ve kept it a bit close to my chest because this is the series I believe in, want to finish and will finish. April is Camp NaNoWriMo and I was pleased to see the variety of options for participants for their word count goals. Some writers are prolific and quick but others of us take more time and all of us can call ourselves writers because that’s what we do even if we cannot yet called ourselves published writers.
My current novel, we’ll call the Starchild series although it has existed under a variety of names, has been an active work in progress since 2011 when it was born of my obsession with Sims 2. I created several worlds and staged screenshots and mostly just had fun trying to figure out stories as I played. It wasn’t a great period in my life and as a result it fueled my desire for escapism which in turn fueled me creatively.
By 2013 when I formalized my idea for NaNoWri Mo under the title The View From Here the stories had transformed and became something entirely separate from the worlds within the Sims 2. The right elements aligned and I won NaNoWriMo 2013 with a little over 51k but I wasn’t done and through 2014 I continued expanding the world I’d created in The View From Here such that by the time NaNoWriMo 2014 started I was fired up to continue with the second part of the story in Immolated Horizon which clocked in at a little over 50k.
Previously the longest novel I had written for NaNoWriMo was around 30k and although it was a fun journey at the time it just wasn’t a story I was excited to see through to the end. This is a really important note for anyone participating in NaNoWriMo–the pacing is rapid and it is helpful to have something in the story that you are truly passionate about. It doesn’t prevent you from having difficult word count days but it will keep you excited to discover more about your world. When I struggled with word count I began writing about side characters, learning about them about how they fit into the world.
The notes, characters and side stories grew and easily matched my official win numbers. Revision in the form of cutting wasn’t happening because the world itself was being born as I immersed myself within it. It continued to grow and evolve until early 2015 when the changes in me and my life altered my course and the story had to be placed on the backburner.
I know there are a lot of published writers who talk about how vital it is to make time for writing take precedent over everything else and I believe them when they say that this is how they became successful. I’ve been actively writing since childhood which is 20+ years ago and although my cousin was wrong about the fact that I couldn’t call myself a writer–I have published nonfiction–he was correct that my priorities are broader than simply becoming a published writer. It is important to be able to acknowledge this when you are creative. We’re living in a world that promises a variety of types of fame based on singular moments when your hard work becomes illuminated by the watching world but that’s not always why we create. I’d argue that many of us want to find success for our hard work but I don’t think every writer writes in order to become an “Author”.
The Starchild series centers on a fractured world at a historical turning point but it does so through the eyes of a young woman who had hidden her innate powers because they were deemed dangerous. She rediscovers them in context with a mysterious death during her childhood and as she explores the truth she finds herself in the middle of events which will change her world.
I became fascinated with this character outside myself–through character creation in Sims 2–but she held up a mirror on my life and once I gained distance I discovered that my revisions were going to be far more challenging than I had expected.
So, 2015 rolled around and I was entirely invested in my story but my life was falling apart and taking a new form which necessitated moving across the country, scrambling to find work, trying to find a place to live, dealing with an ex across country, getting remarried and not really being able to revisit Starchild until 2017.
In my next post, next week, I’ll delve into what I’ve learned as I’ve approached the revision process after not working on it for a couple of years.
We’re not all professional writers who have been able to prioritize writing. Yes, it is easy to set aside an hour to write if it is your priority but if writing is second, third or tenth on your list of priorities you can still be a writer as long as you prioritize writing above other things that are truly less important to you. Your story is not less tangible if it’s stuck in your head while you ring up customers. If you have a world that’s building in your mind you should write it down but the adventure is yours and some of us end up taking the scenic route to finishing our stories–this isn’t a less valid path and sometimes it is the more satisfying one.