Books are amazing right?
Even as a tinnnyyyyy child we (maybe not “we”. Certainly I) devoured books voraciously. My mom read to me nearly every night. My teachers at school read to me after lunch and I would doodle on paper while my head drifted with images off the pages. The library was my sanctuary. Instead of asking to go to the mall or begging my mom for clothes, I asked to go to the library. I sat for hours, reading and going through books, picking and choosing which ones would go home with me. Rinse, lather, repeat for most of my childhood, all the way up until–well, now. Except now I have Amazon and Thrift stores were I can just buy my own books. Hooray for cheap renewable entertainment!!
Ahhh, my treasure trove. My beauties. My loves.
Books are the reason why I write. (Duh. Isn’t it always??) That and I excelled in every English class I ever took. I did words MUCH better than I did icky hateful math. (That’s a curse word in my household by the way.) I wrote near perfect essays in one go, usually the night before they were due.
I was a Procrastination Queen– SCRATCH THAT. I AM A procrastination Queen.
I loved writing and I got the grades to prove it. So I started writing creatively. Little stories about my friends or turning a family vacation into a magic filled adventure. Then the idea of “noveling” got it’s hooks into me and suddenly a whole new world opened before me. But I had this crippling belief where I thought to be a successful writer, I had to be TRAINED. Like, Masters in Writing kind of trained. I didn’t think I had it in me to actually write a successful book with my meager Associates Degree.
How silly of me, right? David Bromstad wasn’t school-trained to be an interior designer and he won Design Star the first season. Now he has his own TV show that’s been running ever since. (LOVE ME some Color Splash TV!!!) And of course y’all know of the other famous people who dropped out of school and became awesome. Einstein, Thomas Edison, Princess Diana…you get it. But the fear still gets you. Especially me who is very much a teacher-pleasing, by-the-book, homework driven weirdie. Yep. School nerd, right here. I thought that I had to KNOW THE RULES of writing to be successful.
How silly. Of course you don’t!! You can go the long circuitous route and find out for yourself. It’s more “hands on” that way…HA.
It took a long time for me to get over that “need a Master’s Degree” nonsense. It was just another excuse; another whisper of self-doubt in my ear. Anybody can write. Many of them even do it well.
“Alright” I said to Me. “Let’s do this thing!”
A couple NaNoWriMo’s later, here I am, struggling with my first grown up novel, YAY ME! <–this being said with a bar of chocolate in one hand and a bottle of Cinnamon Whisky in the other with my book playlist blaring on repeat in the background.
Writing isn’t pretty yo. But you can kill people who make you angry without committing a crime so at least you can vent frustration right? Haha.
So you (I) write and write and write. We plot and plot and plot. We delete entire pages of filler and wipe the tears off our keyboards. We eat, sleep, and breathe our little ugly baby novels, nurturing them and caring for them. They really are like little wooden puppets. They’re technically made of trees since they’re printed on paper and we play with them surely–crumpling up crap pages and shooting waste basket hoops. But mostly the ugly little novel just sits in a binder in the corner, waiting for the day of the second draft and the Blue fairy to come down and say “You’re a real boy now–almost.”
I say ALMOST because you can write and write and write your fingers into nubs of bone but if you don’t BELIEVE your story is real, the it’ll never be real.
Wooooowww Jess. Really? You’re going there huh?
Shhh….just go with it…….
Okay, let’s put it this way. You’re binge watching some anime or some TV show for like, a week. It’s the only thing you do besides pee, eat and catch some zzzz’s. And then you dream about the show. It infiltrates your DREAMS. You start seeing people on the street that LOOK like the characters. You start referencing the show while talking about other things. It’s real enough in your subconscious that it stays at the forefront and leaks all over your life like a melting Popsicle in July.
Now apply that to books. YOUR book. Can you have dreams about your book if you’re not obsessing over it? NO! Can you write real, dynamic characters if you don’t look schizophrenic and have one-sided conversations with yourself–I mean characters? NO!! Will this thing ever make sense to you if you don’t memorize the plot points until you can recite them by heart? NOOOOO!!!
I hit this point about a week ago.
After my technological scare (blogged here) where I thought my novel was gone for good, I had to take a very stunned step back and realize that I CARE if my work is gone. This ugly baby story has become something I want to fight for. It’s becoming as real to me as any of the books I’m reading—WHOOOOAAAAAAAA.
MY BOOK IS BECOMING REAL TO ME.
I think I crossed a line here. Is this the dark side? Do I get cookies??
When I close my eyes, I can see my characters standing there arguing or chatting or having an emotional melt down. I can see their clothing and facial expression and hear the cadence of their voices. At any given moment I can ask my character’s opinion on something and my brain will automatically give me their answer, according to their scripted personality. I can see the Zen garden where the main characters have their first emotional connection. I can also see it as a graveyard of dead bodies later in the book and feel their keen loss of the sanctuary.
This was REAL. As real as if I was remembering it from a book I’ve read. Like, a REAL book with an ISBN number.
I think this is a defining moment as a writer. You’ve inundated yourself with so much of your book, reading and writing it over and over, that it’s PART of you now. You know it intimately. Maybe not perfectly. But intimately enough that your characters are PEOPLE and you KNOW THEM. They’re your friends. Or enemies. It’ll stay with you now like the thousands of other stories you’ve read. Only this one is special because its YOUR story. Your REAL story.
HOLYYYY CRAP BALLS!!!
I feel like a fledgling actress who was handed a script for my very first role and has just finished my first scene on camera. Everyone is surprised and pleased with me and they send me along to my trailer. And then when I stare into the mirror, a blossom of knowledge opens up in me. So THIS is what it’s like. I understand now.
I WANT MORE. For better or worse, I want more of this. And it’s true.
It’s especially world shaking for me to feel this need because I was the girl who never got into anything past the surface. I am SO not a details person. But to know that I’ve come as far as to visualize my book as if I’d seen it on TV? That’s a huge leap forward. I want more leaps. I want more knowledge and satisfaction.
This is what we’re writing for my friends. When you believe in your story, others will too. You make THEM see it’s real when YOU do. So keep writing. Don’t stop! Make those ugly baby stories into real live novels with rosy cheeks and everything. The Blue Fairy will stop by soon and make it a really real book. No more “almost”. I will wait for this day.
—“I’ve got no strings/ to hold me down/ to make me fret or make me frown/ I had strings/but now I’m free/ I’ve got no strings on me” –Pinocchio