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Writing a Novel is a Long Term Relationship

February 6, 2014

beenalongtimeppicI’ve found that when you hit your forties, the past becomes a bit of a blur. Pretty much everything seems to have happened ‘awhile ago’.

But the other day, I took a moment to really try and add it up. I had to think back and work it out:

I started my novel in university after I took that Romantics English course and became enamoured with the time period. Lady Caroline Lamb became my muse and–boom! The novel started pouring out.

It went through innumerable fits and starts. I rewrote the beginning a half a dozen times, wondering if the whole thing would just fizzle out like so many other writing projects (since about the age of ten) but no, it kept on. I kept chugging on.

I took that Romantics course in about the year 1996/1997 (you know you are getting older when you say things like ‘about the year…’ because so much time has passed you can’t precisely pin point it!). The genesis for my novel came shortly thereafter. Given that this is now 2014, and I’m almost-but-not-quite-done-my-novel-yet, so far I’ve been working on this ($@#%^%$) thing for…oh,  let’s say fifteen years.

FIFTEEN YEARS!?!? No no no no, I said to myself. That simply can’t be right. Add it up again.

So I did. And the approximation stayed the same.

FIFTEEN YEARS!

I have no idea why it has taken me this long. Other writers fly through their novels in a year or so–or, if they are doing ‘nanowrimo’, one month!

Believe me, I have tried to analyze it: Is it fear of failure or fear of success? Are negative beliefs holding me back? Is it my subconscious? Am I a perfectionist?

Or, more practically: Do I need an outline? (tried that) Do I need a writing goal? (tried that) Do I need a deadline? (tried that too!) Or do I just need to get my bum in my writing chair more often? (only to have this happen–or this or this or this).

I finally had to say to myself: all this wondering about not getting it done is getting in the way of getting it done. As a friend of mine once said about the impending birth of her child, an event to which no amount of planning can truly prepare one: ‘she’s gonna come out the way she’s gonna come out’.

And that’s the same with my novel. It’s coming out the way its gonna come out. So stop fighting it, darling, and just go with it because though the pace may not be to your liking, it’s coming, slowly but surely, it’s coming into being!

But consider this…

  • I’ve been with my novel even longer than my husband. (This is a long term relationship!)
  • My novel is older than my first born son. (This is a long term relationship!)

Also:

  • Writing a novel means you must marinate in its essence–no matter where that takes you. You must be willing to sit with it when it’s happy and joyful and when it wakes up crying at 3am.  (This is a long term relationship!)
  • Writing a novel means you will psychically bond with it. It will be your shadow, a ghostly doppelgänger following you around during your ‘normal’ life. You are ‘two hearts beating as one’ as you do such mundane tasks as wash the dishes, watch TV and stand in line at the grocery store. (This is a long term relationship!)
  • Writing a novel means there are moments of difficulty and moments of contentment and times filled with silence and other times filled with the dramatic rush of words. It all ebbs and flows. (Just like a long term relationship!)

You may want to ask me: Julie, after all these years together, how do you keep the flame alive? Aren’t you bored?

And the only answer I can give is: love. I’m still crazy in love. I love my difficult characters, my twisting plot, my historical setting. I love laying down new words and reworking old words and spending time with the words, building it and building it.

My novel, my dear old friend.

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One comment

  1. Wait till you catch up to me dear – I’m nearly sixty!

    I had a novel which went somewhat like yours. I worked on it for years. I still have it, somewhere.

    It will never be finished. I only had high school English. When I started writing it, I had no idea what I was doing. No idea at all. Quite frankly it was a total disaster.

    You have an advantage. Wish I’d had university English. I would have saved a lot of time.

    Wayne



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