This week, I hit a huge milestone with my novel: 30,000 typed words.
That’s a lot, and I know I have plenty more to go. As I let this feat sink in, I want to take a moment to reflect on the journey so far, how it’s led me to this point, and where I’m going from here.
I began working on this novel in May 2014. I had just finished a Young Adult Fiction class at Columbia College Chicago. I felt compelled to write a scene of a young woman caught in a dark town square, listening for the whereabouts of her brother, a recently bitten werewolf, while watching puffs of hot breath emerge from shadowed alleyways. For some reason, my heart told me to latch onto this story and to see it through. Up to that point, I’d written short stories, a couple of short story series when I was young, but I’d never tackled a novel before.
So, I set out on the personal promise to finish this book. Now, here I am almost three years later with 30,000 typed words and eight notebooks full of handwritten scene ideas. Until this past December, I wrote longhand every day. Cursive. I love cursive. I’m realizing in this moment that I haven’t written in cursive since I started typing up my novel. Here is documented promise to consciously write in cursive when I can. Anyway, in the almost three years I’ve worked on my first novel, I’ve started from scratch three times. The first time, I set my 220-page draft aside because I realized the story works better from my main character Kathryn’s point-of-view better than the third-person in my first draft. The second time, I had handwritten in first-person point-of-view for almost a year and finally felt like I was circling the drain. I felt connected to my characters, but I felt like each day’s page was a patterned situation I found my characters in or starts to scenes that were never finished. I do not regret any of it. After a while, I felt no forward progress in finishing a draft of my novel. I feared I would forever explore this world and Kathryn’s point-of-view but never finish a compressed story.
Finally, the third restart of my novel came after this Christmas when I got a new laptop. A powerhouse of a laptop that had six times the battery life of my previous computer, meaning I could work longer on-the-go. I revamped my writing process to continue where I left off rather than write a scene idea that came to me when I worked that day. Now, I’m 30,000+ words into a cohesive first draft.
One main thing I love about continuing with where I left off is that I turn off my editing brain. I push myself forward because I love seeing the word and page counts at the bottom of my screen break a new milestone. For pages, I celebrate every ten; for word count, I cheer each thousand-word hurdle I leap.
Currently, I feel that I’m at a halfway point in my book’s plot. Granted, I won’t know that until the book’s done, but with where I’m at and where I think I’m heading in the story, I feel like I’m in the middle. I’m finding myself drawing back on action-heavy scenes and placing myself more in my heroine’s head. I have a fuller sense of this world I’ve created. I’m getting a footing into her world and why she views it as such. I had two moments today where I felt the story pour out of my and onto the screen. Moments like this are the ones that hooked me as a kid and pushed me to pursue this a calling.
I believe my calling is storytelling, whether I’m the one writing it or performing it. I believe that is my purpose in life. If I can help unite people, educate, and change minds for the better through it, I’ve achieved my mission behind my work. I want to open minds while I continually try to expand mine.
As I move forward with my first novel, I go with the motivation of a mental halfway mark. I’m reminded of nights in my dorm room, hammering out pages of fiction for classes that week, and being happy. I listened to my younger self, who said he wanted to be an author and an actor, and here I am at 23, actively chasing it.
I’m almost two years out of college now. I’m still working on the book I left there with. I’ve completed The Second City’s Conservatory program. I’m finishing their Writing program. I’ve been involved in two Second City shows, and I’m now a part of The Annoyance Theater’s first resident sketch company. I’m doing it. I may not being paid for it, but I’m doing it, and at this point in my creative career, that is most important. I have no intention of throwing in the towel. As I keep achieving this miniature milestones that lead to larger ones, I rest assured that I will someday support myself financially off my creative endeavors. And, worst case scenario, if I’m still doing it pro-bono, I’m still doing it. Writing and storytelling projects will live on after me, whereas paychecks won’t.
These are the thoughts mulling around inside my head this week. Thank you for taking the time to read through them! I wish you the best on your own projects and keep moving forward.