The more I learn about writing a novel, the more I realise I don’t know. And the more I realise I don’t know, the more vulnerable I am to trying to know more instead of writing more. Which is leading me to the added problem of knowing so much about the novel I have yet to write, that it may no longer interest me.
This is where I’m heading. Though I do not say this as an expression of regret. While frustrating, it is also proving to be fascinating. My story, ‘Hidden Messages’ is now almost entirely clear to me. I have written three thousand words of plans and summaries. It’s coherent, structured and I think it has the potential to hold the attention of the reader.
The problem is, the more I delve into it, the more I understand how it must follow a certain path. The more I feel bogged down in, if you will, editing before the fact. I am seeking to hone it to perfect sharpness, before forging it.
And I say this again, this is not a source of regret. I wish I had undertaken this process before writing my previous novel. I think it would’ve been a better novel for it. I may have saved myself a year of plodding and dead ends. Or, and this is what concerns me about ‘Hidden Messages’ it may have remained unwritten as I tried to perfect it before writing it.
I’ll say this for the third time, though it screams of too much protesting, I do not regret this. I don’t regret it for three reasons. The first reason being that if and when I write this novel, it will be a novel. It will be a novel that from the first draft to the last, will require less hacking at than the application of polish. The terror of the rewrite need not sap my resolve.
Secondly, the novel I write after this will be better. I already know its name. I already know the characters. And even though it will be more complex than this one, armed with what I’ve already learned, I know how best to grapple with it. Precipitous pitfalls are replaced by scalable precipices.
Lastly and most importantly, I feel like a writer again. For a long time, I felt like an imposter whenever I saw my Twitter profile. Or worse, when anyone asked how the writing was going. I hadn’t realised I was not fully recovered from the disappointment of my previous novel.
I’d always regarded myself as thick-skinned. I’m not. I crave success and recognition. When that didn’t happen, I took it personally. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I didn’t realise the bang my ego and confidence had taken. I couldn’t understand why I was finding writing a second novel so difficult.
Intellectually, I knew rejection is nine-tenths of the writing experience but I had no defences against it. The only downside to being a cocky and self-entitled man, I suppose. I know that if and when ‘Hidden Messages’ fails to bring me status and riches I’ll be crushed. But I’ll know it is happening. I’ll be prepared. I’ll have already begun novel three. I have to do this because I already know what novels, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten are. And the only thing, right now, that’s preventing me from writing them is writing this one.
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