Writerly Self-Pep Talk

So I’ve kinda been working on a novel…

…for the thirtieth-odd time since I was ten, and I have only ever finished one other of those.

But this one feels good. I think I’m on a good one.

But, despite the fact that I am actually confident that I can make a substantial story out of this one and possibly a full-length novel, I am not confident about a number of other things.

Firstly, I am really terrified that the plot/subject/point of my novel is the most cliched one ever. I mean, I don’t think it actually is, but there’s always that terrifying little tickle at the back of my head that says, “You’re just spitting up what you’ve read in YA fiction and Madeleine L’Engle for years; you’re not creating anything original.”

Aside from that I’m terrified that while there may be events, there isn’t actually a plot. Basically, the book doesn’t have a definite ending. There is no final plot twist which suddenly fixes everything. What there is, is a definite wakeup call which brings most of the characters to think long and hard about the disaster they have spiraled down into (both separately and together), but there is no final plot twist, no definite spoiler to give away. So that scares me.

In addition to that I’m also terrified of ever putting it out into the world. By the time it is a finished project I might feel differently about it, but I am very very afraid that the process to get a publishing house to notice me will expose how very flimsy the story actually is, and I am afraid that self-publishing will basically plunge it into oblivion, which I don’t want. I want it to have a chance. But at the same time I’m scared to give it that chance and I think about never publishing it, about keeping it for myself to prove that I can do it, that I can write novels.

I guess what I’m struggling with is the all or nothing side of it: I either want everyone to love it or no one to see it. I’m already doing this to myself: I told Derek and Hannah that they aren’t allowed to read it until it’s done, because I want it to hit them all at once like it should as opposed to me giving away things bit by bit. (Frankly, I want it to make them cry.)

Then of course, I return to my writerly hero, to Madeleine L’Engle, and I remember her stories of her “decade of failure” in which almost nothing got published and she rethought her decision to try to write.

I am not Madeleine L’Engle. I do not lead a life like hers and I am not likely to. It was a very different time. But I still want to know: what, in the first place, made her think she should try to publish her books?

I am not complaining about her decision to do so; I do not want to think about the kind of person I would be without some of the things I have learned from her. So it is good, for me at least, that she made that decision. But now I want to know why she made it.

And I guess the point is to give the book the aforementioned chance. Chance for what? Chance to speak to someone. Or a handful of people. Or some lonely teenage girl in the corner of a dusty library. Or nobody at all – but it has to have that chance.

So I guess that’s why I’m doing this.

And I don’t need to be John Green. I don’t need to succeed massively like he has. I don’t need to make millions of people sob. (And I certainly don’t need people stereotyping my book as a book which speaks only to white girls, but that’s another story.)

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. I mean, to get professional affirmation that I am a good writer would be unquestionably amazing – but at the end of the day it’s just more words.

Okay. So I guess I need to be proud of myself for the important things: finishing a damn book for the first time since I was ten, constructing a real story, making something I am proud of.

And other than that, I can let things go.


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