Six Years and a Book: Finishing A Novel After A long Hiatus

This is the blog-ified version of a series of tweets I made after finishing my novel, FIVE DEATHS AND A GOD. The storify is here.  ^_^

____

November 30th, 2017

*whispers* I finished my first novel yesterday after a six year hiatus.

I’d like to tell you about my novel-writing journey thus far, because it’s been…interesting, shall we say.

Screenshot 2017-11-29 10.12.43
This is a thing that happened.

Okay, so.

I wrote my first *finished* novel in 2003, and it was about an adorable little weasel who goes on a quest to help save his (future boy)friend’s kingdom.

(Wilfy is totally bi. I just didn’t consciously understand or realize that when I was a tiny smol!Merc.)

2004 was the first year I did #NaNoWriMo (I won), finishing my second novel. That was a massive (and hysterically terrible) epic fantasy. It was something like 150k and was the first book in a duology.

That high of finishing a REAL LIFE BOOK-SHAPED THING was addictive. And because I do not have the greatest track record of taking on reasonable amounts of work* or anything less than moon-high ambitious challenges, the next year I set out to write _two_ novels during NaNo.

(*There was a time when smol!Merc asked their piano teacher if they could learn Chopin’s etude No. 14 in F minor because “it sounds so cool.” Teacher wisely, but kindly, said “Let’s wait until you’ve got more experience, okay?”)

giphy-downsized (4)

ANYWAY. In 2005 I wrote 1 complete 50k novel–and got 84k into a second that I never finished.

In 2006, I wrote 2 complete novels (one at 50k, one at 110k), and wrote 80k on a third novel I never finished.

In 2007, I wrote 3 adult novels (57k, 94k, 55k) a 20k MG novel, a 30k novella, and a 38k novella. In the unfinished category, I had: one project at 50k and one at 36k.

(Yes, I tried to do five of these in one month for NaNo. Please don’t try this at home, kids. I hurt my brain and my wrists BAD, and the burnout effect began kicking in.)

In 2008, I wrote 1 novel of 74k, a novella of 18k; unfinished, I had a 50k novel and 30k novel. I was constantly at the edge of burnout. (I had also been living with undiagnosed depression and anxiety, in a toxic emotional living situation, and had for years. I just didn’t know it.)

In 2009, I wrote WOLFBOOK1 at 95k, a short MG novelette of 14k, and a horror novellete of 16k. Unfinished projects included: 22k on a novella and 19k on a novel. I also moved to CA for six months, got laid off from my job on New Year’s Day (2010), and moved back to MN.

And then I burned out really badly. I just didn’t quite let myself accept that. So I tried to keep going.

In 2010 I wrote two books: one (a ground-up rewrite, basically a new thing) at 77k, and its sequel at 95k. Unfinished: a project at 37k. Collapsed into a black hole of super toxic work environment as well as living space.

books stack
Photo of finished and uninished manuscripts (hard copy for archival) with an Xbox One controller for scale.

I was convinced I would never write anything again.

(All this time, by the way, I was still also writing short stories and flash.)

In 2011 I wrote COLLARS. It was super short at 65k. And then I got exactly the wrong kind of feedback on the novel, which shattered my resolve and belief I could write this.

I poked at novels from end of 2011 (tried to write one in 2012 but only got 18k in) and for the six years that followed. I never finished anything. From 2012 to 2016 I was in college and allowed myself to not work on novels because, y’know, college. I focused on short stories a lot during collage, and still consider 2014 the year where I made a commitment to writing professionally.

Always in the back of my mind was that terrifying thought: what if i can never write a book again? What if this is it, and all my novel-writing energy is gone forever?

When I graduated and got a job (my current work, which I love), I thought I could start writing novels again. Hahaha, nope.

I mean, 2016 was a thing that happened. In November I toyed with the idea of NaNo, because I had just moved into my apartment and I had my own space and stable work and surely it could improve? Well. We all know what happened on Election Day.

In June of 2017, overwhelmed with personal chaos and trying to enjoy #4thStreetFantasy convention, I poked away at a novel fragment. I was sure it wouldn’t go anywhere. Nothing had in six years, why start now?

After all, it was a ridiculous book. It was like DISHONORED meets We Rate Dogs: a secondary world urban fantasy where everyone is queer and all the dogs are good ofc. Plot: A guy wants to save his boyfriend, and his city, so he kidnaps a god to solve the problem.

It was funny, goofy, heartfelt, full of bad jokes and puns and magic. I made a Pinterest board and everything.

Screenshot 2017-11-14 14.17.17
An alignment chart I made for my book (if all the characters were doggos)

And hell, it was 2017 and everything was on fire.

I had stalled out on revising my dark fantasy novel COLLARS, which is deeply important to me. But it’s just too hard when fighting smoke and trying to dodge, rather than nonchalantly walk away from, explosions.

I needed to take a hiatus from my COG game writing, because my mental health has been fucked in all directions. (JSYK, the people at COG? Top notch humans, and my editor is utterly fantastic, understanding and supportive. Couldn’t ask for better, even when I am a moldering series of loosely held together wire and gears.)

“Who would want this book?” I wondered, as I wrote late and early and on breaks, laughing and having feels and getting super excited and making photoshop alignment charts. Who would want it?

Me. And a bunch of other people who are awesome, whose opinions I respect, and to whom I am deeply grateful for the support and encouragement. ❤

FIVE DEATHS AND A GOD is a book I didn’t imagine existing before June. It’s a finished novel before the end of November. It has been a huge life raft for my brain the second half of this year. (Also video games.)

It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, it’s honest, it’s exciting, it’s ridiculous, and it has dogs. So many good doggos. There’s a masquerade ball. Trickster gods. Killer shadows. Everyone’s queer. (Except maybe the one antagonist.) There are trans ppl and NB ppl and POC and queer people and disabled people and autistic people, and many intersections of all the above.

I indulged the fuck out of my id on this, and it shows.

pugs

After six years, I wrote and finished a new novel. In many ways, it feels like my first time doing this book-thing. I’m elated and excited and happy about how it turned out.

_____

So, here’s the point, really. Everyone’s process is unique. Slumps happen. Life happens. Whether it’s your first novel or your fifth or your fiftith, there’s no proscribed process. Each book’s gonna be it’s own weird thing and that’s okay.

It’s okay if you can’t write all the time, or don’t want to write every day, of if you can only write once in awhile. You’re still a writer. If you’re working on a novel? Huzzah, you’re a novelist! Write at your own pace. There are no bonus points awarded if you finish in X time vs Y time. Do what works for you.

It’s okay. We’re literally _pulling whole fucking books out of our heads and hearts. Do you know how wild and mind-boggling that is?! Think about it. A thing that never existed until you wrote it down…BOOM. Now it exists. It’s a real thing. You created it. Pretty cool, huh?

So that has been my journey this far. Is 5DAG better than my other efforts?

Definitely! I’ve grown as a writer. I’m filling my prose with doggos and queers and adorb trans ppl.

Does 5DAG still need a lot of work and revision?

OH HELL YES.

And that’s okay!

200w_d

I’m just super happy and proud and excited to have written this thing. 🙂

Never give up, never surrender.

You can do it.

I used to think that was true for everyone but me, but that’s bad!brain lying. I can do this thing, too. Thanks for reading. ❤

Hannibal-Season-3-Wills-Dogs-compressor

2 thoughts on “Six Years and a Book: Finishing A Novel After A long Hiatus

  1. Hahah you write with dog gifs, complete opposite to me!! I still can’t believe how much you’ve written! I feel like you’re leagues ahead of me. I’ve written a lot, but haven’t ‘completed’ many books. I’d say I have about 25 unfinished drafts of stories that are hovering around the 10k-50k mark. New Years resolution: just finished the damn story!! LOL

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