About ten years ago, I was in much the same predicament as Maggie, the narrator of my novel, The Moment of Everything. I’d just been laid off from yet another Silicon Valley tech start-up. I was a little lost and wondering what my next step was going to be. So I of course decided to write a novel.
I say “of course” but there wasn’t anything “of course”-y about it. Yes, OK, I had a degree in English, but I wasn’t a WRITER. I’d been a technical writer for part of my career in high tech, but there’s a big difference between “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and “To save the file, click File > Save.” But there’s nothing like the enthusiasm of the uninformed. So put my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard and typed out “Chapter 1.”
A couple of weeks later, I had about three chapters written. I also had a cast of thousands with nothing to do for the other 75% of the novel. A lifetime of reading novels had in no way prepared me to write a novel.
I’m not really sure why beginning writers nearly always want to start with a large project like a novel. You don’t really see this anywhere else. Beginner composers don’t start with a symphony. Beginner golfers don’t expect to play on the PGA/WPGA tour. Yet beginner writers dream of a novel and “best selling author” in front of their names.
And all that can come. But it’s a lot of hard work. There are no words for how hard it is. I must have thrown away 98% of what I’ve written over the last ten years. I took a step back and learned the mechanics of story-telling with short stories. I took A LOT of classes. I used my vacation time to go to workshops and retreats. I’ve rewritten and rewritten the pages of my novel until I had to read it like it were the first time just to remember what’s actually in there. I spent hours on a keyboard or with a pen in my hand when everyone else is outside enjoying their BBQs. I could have stopped. I could have put that novel in a drawer and gotten on with my life. There’s no shame in that. Lots of people have an unfinished novel on their hard drives. But I couldn’t. Some stories just need to be told. And when you feel that way about your work, nothing should get in your way.
So here I am on the Debutante Ball, three days after the launch of that novel I started so long ago, tiara on my head and jetpack on my back. It’s a surreal feeling knowing that my book is on bookstore shelves and in the hands of loved ones and strangers. These characters who have been only in my head for so long are now wandering in and out of other people’s imaginations. There is nothing like this. It was all worth it.
A lot has happened in the ten years since I wrote that first draft of The Moment of Everything for NaNoWriMo. I’ve had numerous jobs. I’ve befriended so many wonderful writers. I adopted a cat. I took care of my brother as he died. I met and married the love of my life. I became a debutante in my 40s. And I wrote a story that needed to be told.