I am currently working on my thesis, which is actually a novel, and a lot of you have mentioned that you’d like to hear more about my writing process. Which is honestly kind of weird for me, because, despite the fact that I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, I don’t think of myself as one. And the truth is, I haven’t actually written very much. I have a 30,000-word… something… that I wrote during NaNoWriMo last year, a short story I wrote for my last grad school class, and about 10,000 words of my thesis. And a bunch of really awful snippets of things I wrote before I started grad school. (Not saying you need grad school to write, but I kind of did – I wrote a whole post about it.)
The point is, the more I write and learn about writing, the more I realize I am not the greatest at it. But that’s not the point of this blog. Which took me an embarrassingly long time to realize. I can’t share any amazing tips and tricks and magical writing methods, because I don’t have any. I’m pretty sure those things are myths. Because writing is hard. Don’t worry, I’m not going to complain about it here. You can read my twitter for that.
This post/series is more about the things I learn while writing. I want to share everything from epic fails (there have been a few) to those eureka moments where I think, if only for five minutes, maybe I can actually do this. Because if I’m being completely honest, my readers – yes, YOU – are probably one of the best sources of support I have right now. And that’s amazing.
A bit of a disclaimer before I get into the real post (yes, I know this is a really long intro): I don’t plan on publishing any part of my thesis on this blog. At least not yet. I’m a little bit terrified it’ll get flagged for plagiarism when I finally turn in the whole thing in January, and I just don’t want to have to deal with that. So, for now, I’m keeping the details to myself. I might share some deleted scenes. Or some of the 5,000+ words I’ve already scrapped. Just don’t expect too much fiction writing from me just yet.
Since this is my first post, I’ve decided to talk about the fact that my first draft sucked. Okay, I got an A- on it (which still makes the OCD person who lives in my brain hyperventilate). But the comments I got (both from my professor and my classmates) were brutal: pacing was off, story was confusing, viewpoints were unclear, etc. So I freaked out, wrote a rant-y blog post (sorry if you read that), spent a few days avoiding everything, and then… started over.
Only, I didn’t have to just rewrite the chapters that sucked. No, I started over three days before I had to turn in a minimum of 6,500 words. Because I figured trying to fix pacing issues and double my word count would take me longer than just rewriting. Starting over was kind of a big deal, because I’d been working on those first few chapters for months. And a lot of the rewriting decisions I had to make involved scrapping a lot of my ideas. I ideas I liked, but couldn’t make work.
I definitely cried at one point. And questioned my decision to go to grad school (for the 4,503,768th time). But in that low point, I realized something big: reading does not make me a writer. I might be able to appreciate great style and characters and plot, but that doesn’t mean I can create those things. I’m not going to lie, that moment led to a what-if-I-can’t-even-write freakout, but it was worth it. Because when I approached my second draft of chapter one, I did it without the assumption that I knew what I was doing. And you know what? It’s a lot better. Even my professor said so. (I scraped by with a low – but solid – A, thank you very much.)
It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn, but it was necessary. I don’t know what I’m doing. Professors have told me that I’m a good writer my entire college career. But academic writing is an entirely different ballgame. Give me a twenty-page research paper, and I will knock that thing out faster than it’s going to take me to write the additional 1,000 words I need to turn in tonight. And get an A. Being a good student doesn’t make me a good writer, either. In fact, right now, I’d say that I’m not a good writer. But, because I know that, I can become one. Eventually.
I am currently taking the first of two thesis-writing courses that will cap off my grad school experience. At the end of this course – in three weeks – I have to turn in 10,000 – 15,000 words, edited. Which is only the first fraction of the approx. 90,000-word novel I have to turn in in January. But, for the first time, I’m starting to think I can actually do this. I’m sure I’m going to feel like quitting at least fifty more times between now and then, but some of the fear is gone now. Which is kind of a big deal.