I started a new novel last week. I had been thinking about the story for at least two months. The characters kept popping into my mind at all hours of the day. I could see them so clearly. I felt so connected to them. I thought about them while I was driving, while I was in the shower, effortlessly seeing them in vivid scenes, some of which even brought tears to my eyes.
Then I sat down and wrote the first chapter.
It was awful.
I was in the middle of writing a steamy sex scene toward the end of my novel and writing so fast my hand was cramping up. My two main characters were finally hooking up and the chemistry was sizzling. But then…I got stuck. I had to describe something that was, ahem, an intimate body part in a somewhat contorted position and I just didn’t have the words. I paused and started to think, but as I was thinking I could feel myself losing the magic of momentum. So, I pushed on as best I could, using horrible clumsy words that weren’t right at all, but knowing I needed to place priority on pinning down the emotions in the moment. I could come back later and fix everything else up.
I’ve been writing seriously for over ten years now. And by “seriously” I mean writing novels and short stories with an eye toward publication. I’ve published one nonfiction book, and one work of autobiographical fiction. I also coach writers, so I’ve edited countless manuscripts.
Last month I finished the first draft of my next nonfiction book. I’ve spent the last year reading and researching, and the past six months painstakingly writing out each chapter. “I’ve got this,” I thought to myself all summer long. “I finally know what I’m doing.”
Then, a week ago, I read through the entire first draft.
And immediately went into the black pit of despair.
It was 2008 and I had just finished the sloppy first draft of my very first novel. It had taken me two years to write it. Two, long crazy years during which I painstakingly cobbled together the book piece by bloody piece. I felt like I had opened up my heart and vomited out everything it held onto the page.
Needless to say, it was a bit messy. It kind of looked like something that had just crawled out of a moat.