Writing a novel is hard. We probably all know this, and yet, many of us set out to accomplish this mighty feat. Isn’t it amazing?
But when you’re in the middle of writing a book, sometimes it doesn’t feel so amazing.
I’ve been on a rollercoaster with my WIP, “Project Pea,” over the past 15 months. Actually, to be honest, it’s been a rollercoaster ever since I got the idea. It started formulating in my brain about 6 years ago. I wrote bits and pieces here and there, sketched a few plans, worked on some character sheets, and even wrote some of the first few chapters, but I never got anywhere past that.
Then, just before November 2020, I decided that I needed to actually write this thing. I’d been tweaking the first few chapters so much that I wasn’t getting anywhere at all. If I wanted to write this book, I just had to sit down and do it.
And that’s how I ended up writing about 75,000 words in one month. By the time December rolled around, the book was finished. I finally had a first draft! It was very, very rough, but at least I wrote the story from beginning to end!
…or did I?
After I let the book rest and began hacking away at it a couple months later, it soon became apparent that I needed to change a lot. On accident, I came up with a new character (my favourite) that breathed new life into the book. That gave me some encouragement, but since there was a lot happening in my life at the beginning of 2021 (mostly getting married), I set Project Pea away for a little while.
In the second half of 2021, I got back to work on my precious WIP. I changed a lot and threw out over 50k words which I then replaced with new writing. I was making quite a bit of progress on my second draft. The first half of the book – the part that has always been the most solid to me – was shaping up great. But the problem came when I realised that the first half of the book really needed to be the first quarter of the book, and the second half needed to actually be three-quarters of the book…and the “second half” was where I’d always been floundering. Yikes.
I got a handle on it a bit. I had a plan, and it seemed pretty good at first! But as I kept looking at my outline, I realised something that I think I’d been ignoring for a long time:
The story was just a pretty standard portal fantasy.
There were some pretty cool aspects of the story that were certainly unique, but most of the story (that elusive three-quarters) was just a normal fantasy quest.
I got so frustrated that I put Project Pea away again for a few months. Had I put all that work into a story that wasn’t even good? Would this dream I’d had for years just fall flat on its face?
It’s an awful feeling when you doubt a story you’ve worked so hard on. Writers, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It often happens as we’re working hard on the drafts of our story. We read over what we’ve written and think, “Is this really that great?”
But this time, I knew it wasn’t just a matter of me being tired of Project Pea or working on it too much. I knew for sure that I needed to make a big change or else this thing wasn’t going anywhere. The only problem was that I had no idea how to change it and make it unique without turning it into an entirely different story and sacrificing everything that made it Project Pea.
I haven’t worked on Project Pea in a couple months ever since I had that revelation. I started to think that I may never pick it back up again – either that, or salvage my favourite characters and drop them in a new story. It meant so much to me that I even prayed about it. I wondered why God had allowed me to work so hard on this idea, only to have it remain stagnant.
But everything changed last night.
You know when I get a lot of ideas? Okay, yes, the shower – but besides that, a lot of times I get really profound ideas right before I go to bed, usually while I’m brushing my teeth. There’s a really cool scientific fact about how when we get tired, the right side of our brain starts to become more dominant than the left, so logic and reason begin to snooze while creativity takes over. I’ve definitely seen that all throughout my life, as I’ve always preferred writing at night.
But anyway, while I was brushing my teeth last night, I wasn’t really thinking about Project Pea, just sort of idly rifling through story ideas in my head.
Then a single idea careened into me out of nowhere. And instantly, I knew it was exactly what I’d been looking for.
It’s an idea that allows me to retain the heart of the book, as well as most of the characters, while entirely changing the setting into something that (as far as I’ve been able to research) is very unique. Funnily enough, the setting also helps the book fit more into the YA genre, which was my goal anyway. There’s a lot I’ll have to change, including tweaking some of the characters and the catalyst of the whole book, but this time, I’m positive it’s the right direction. It’s taken years, but I’ve finally been able to truly discover this book.
So yes, writing a book is hard. Some people can churn them out in months. For some like me, it can take years. But I hope this post encourages you to never give up, even when it seems hopeless. Try again, and again, and again until you figure it out and get it right – or maybe it’s not right yet and you have to try yet again.
The truth is that there may be many books in this world, but few of them are truly great. I hope you’ll commit to writing a great book, not just a good one, even if it takes you years.
If you need somewhere to start, subscribing to my newsletter will get you a free copy of my brief writing guidebook on crafting meaningful stories. And my post’s comments are always open for questions and discussion.
So wherever you are on your writing journey, keep going. I believe in you!