writing my novel is taking forever – so here’s my plan

I’ve been working on two novels on and off for a while. One for around ten years, the other for three. I’e accepted that the ten year one was more a learning exercise than anything else so I’ve more or less shelved it, but I’m still plodding on with the other. And I’m still hitting the same dead ends.

I don’t need to put much thought into why its taking me so long. I know the answer. I’m scared because the real, live novel will be nowhere near as perfect as it appears in my head. When I think about my novel, I don’t look at it head-on; I slip side glances at it. I see a neat manuscript. I see a paperback with my name on the cover. But I never look inside these items because if I don’t look inside them, they remain perfect. They’re complete, well-written, strong, engaging. Which isn’t to say the real finished product won’t be any (or all!?) of these things but I lack faith in myself to achieve them. Its easier just to keep tinkering with, or rewriting, what I’ve already written than think about where I’m going to go next. Plus I want it to be perfect. And if I keep rewriting it and editing it, I’m getting closer to perfection, surely? But overall, my fear can be boiled down to this:

I’m scared of finishing the novel and realising its crap

Which the first draft probably will be, because that’s first drafts for you. I know this because all writers say so, and not only that, the first drafts of my short stories are always crap. There’s usually something salvageable, but I need to rework them and polish them.

I’m utterly sick fed up of the constant internal battle. Of deciding I’ll work on the novel and then deciding that its too hard to think of where to go next, so I’ll leave that so I can think about it some more, and instead just rework the first paragraph of chapter two, because it reads a bit clunky. I’m tired of thinking about it. And I don’t want to become ‘that writer’ who bangs on and on about a book they’re working on, but never produces. I’ve been stuck around 35000 words for almost a year now. So its make or break.

And I’ve decided to make

The break option was to shelve the project. But I don’t want to. I want to write this novel. But I need help. I need support. This will be my first novel, and its hard. Not that later novels are easy, but I need to know I can do this. I’ve identified my particular weakness and its time to overcome it.

I’ve booked myself into a week-long writing retreat at Moniack Mhor in August. It’s paid for, so there’s no backing out. I’ll get the chance to connect with other writers, and receive expert tutoring, plus I’ll have tonnes of time to write with no excuses. It will be a chance to kick start a project I’ve stalled on for so long. And on my return I’m going to advertise for beta readers for the first few chapters so that I can get over my fear of getting the words out there, even if they aren’t perfect.
I feel something has shifted, as if there is hope for this novel yet.

Is there a big project in your life – creative or otherwise – that you keep putting off because of fear? Is there something you could do to get things moving?

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