I began this blog nearly two years ago (!), and at the time it was not much more than an intention–that eventually, I would emerge victorious from my postpartum brain fog, I would write a novel and I would blog about it.
It was nearly twenty months ago that I abandoned my first effort, and with that the blog went fallow as well. After all, even though all the best advice seemed to say a self-published author needs to have a blog, it eventually dawned on me that what a self-published author most needs to have is a book. And to break it down even further, what a self-published author who is also a stay-at-home mom really, really, needs is a babysitter, which due to some combination of fatigue and insanity I didn’t manage to hire a single time until my daughter was fully a year old.
So a year and three months ago, now, (!) I hired a babysitter three mornings a week and started writing the first draft of my novel, which now stands at about 400 pages. In those early, early days, when nearly all of the work was still ahead of me, in order not to lose heart I indulged in some fantasies in which I was already a successful author.
“Tell us,” The award-winning journalist of my mind, thoroughly fascinated by my process, would ask me as I fired up Scrivener to another blank page and took a sip of my cappuccino, sloughing off my daughter’s wails of separation anxiety as I tried to remember how to think. “What is it like to write a first draft?”
Over the weeks and months that followed, as I was doing it, I decided that writing a first draft is like running through a city on fire. And all I had to do to make it out alive was get from one side of the city to the other. I told myself that if I stopped to edit anything along the way I risked certain death.
So here I am, a year and three months later, having made it out of the burning city alive. I haven’t actually looked at or read any of it since the day I wrote it, which is why it’s hard for me to feel a huge sense of accomplishment at writing 400 pages. After all, I was there. I watched the city burn for over a year. I have a faint sense of the wreckage that awaits me when I return, and how much work I have left to do.
As soon as I’m done with this blog post, I’m going to begin rereading the entire beast, start to finish. Then I’ll re-outline it into three or four serial novellas, which I imagine will be about 80-100 pages each (I figure I have about 50 pages more of backstory/world building to add, and probably 100 pages or so to edit out). Then I’m going to finish one, figure out how to publish it, and then go back and do the rest one by one.
So, I have already written the source material that I expect will get me through the next several years of writing and motherhood, until gloriously, when the children are all in school, I can speed up the process I’ve begun to establish into a chop shop of write-and-release YA fiction.
And now that this significant, though incomplete, chunk of work is behind me, I no longer fantasize about what people may or may not one day ask me about my process. Actually, being a real writer is pretty boring. Long gone are the sumptuous days of would-be writing, when I had hours to spend waxing romantic about my favorite pen. Hell, I don’t even have the time now to write by hand. I have a writing quota to fill and then I have to get home to put my daughter down for her nap. If it’s a particularly good writing day, I might even have time left to get most of my FitBit steps outside.
My fantasies now are more along the lines of remodeling the kitchen with money I’ve made from my writing.
When I moved out to LA in my early 20s to try to break into TV writing, I remember reading an interview with the hugely successful TV writer/producer Shonda Rhimes. In it, she said something along the lines of, “You have to know you’re going to be successful when you start out. If you don’t know that, why bother?” And I balked when I read that, because I had absolutely zero inkling that I would ever be successful at that. And obviously, I wasn’t.
But this time feels different. To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger on the morning before he became Mr. Universe, “It’s one of those days when you know you’re going to win.”