Writing Update: I Finished the Book
I finished the book. I'm still a little shell-shocked that I did it but I finished drafting a book. It has been so long since I've been able to say I wrote a full first draft of a new novel.
I finished the first draft of Allie Mae Doesn't Get the Guy back in 2016 or 2017 and spent the next 4-5 years editing it and finessing it. In early 2018, I rewrote the whole book from scratch, making major plot and structure changes. I finished that draft in 2019 and that was an utterly thrilling moment.
But the thought kept nagging the back of my mind: what if I've lost the ability to finish a book?
It was a real concern, because though I wrote three books in the two years after college graduation, I had attempted five novels since 2017 that had fizzled out near at or way before the 15,000 word mark. They included two adult novels, one of which I still would love to return to (it has the fanciful title The Trials and Tribulations of a Reluctant Superhero and I still think the concept is pretty rad); and three young adult novels, one of which morphed into an adult novel as I drafted.
My inability to finish a book began to take a toll on my self-esteem and the way I identified. Could I really call myself a writer anymore, or was I merely a reviser?
Was I a one-hit wonder without a hit?
Allie Mae is a good book, has potential to even be a great book. There is so much of myself in it, so much that is interesting and delightful to me. I'm still struggling to find an agent who agrees with me, but that doesn't mean I believe in the book any less. I think it tells a fun story that matters and I love it.
But still, if I couldn't produce another book, I worried, what did that make me?
My friends told me not to worry — sometimes there are false starts. Sometimes the story we think we're meant to tell is not right for the moment, or not right at all, and it takes a few thousand words to figure that out.
But after three, four, five false starts those words start to sound way less comforting and way more like lies.
Lately I've been wrestling with this idea of finding value on my own instead of expecting outside forces — friends, family, strangers on the internet, coworkers — to tell me I'm doing well. And not having that for my writing life has been...well, it's been tough.
So I'm extra proud of myself for finishing this book. I had encouragement from friends who've read parts of it but for the most part the driving force behind writing it was me.
I'm patting myself on the back for that.