Carolyn’s Online Magazine (#COMe)
WRITING A NOVEL:
ELATION, DESPAIR, AND A SUGAR RUSH
A newspaper article on an author, last-named Buckley, first name in lost part of the article, writes of novel authorship: …in a novel, you get to make up a world and then live in it for nine months…I’ve just finished my 12th book, and there’s a period of elation at the beginning just because someone is willing to pay you to do this. Then you get to the middle and there’s a period of Emersonian despair when you’re rewriting a chapter for the 17th time. And then you get a second sugar rush when the day comes when you actually type “The End.” I’ve had that experience 12 times, and I remember each one.
I eased into writing my historical novel-under-construction in 2000. It’s had several starting dates interrupted by necessary research and life happenings.
Unfortunately, there is no one willing to pay me to write this novel. My monetary kudos came from journalism until the newspaper shut down the local section I wrote for.
While writing the novel, I wanted to query magazines with numerous subjects I’ve researched for the newspaper. I landed one assignment completed Feb. 10, 2008.
I’ve been immersed in the 1790s world, but have the privilege of having my real-life characters and many of their interactions forming a skeleton, a basic outline, on what I’m writing. After all, all my characters once actually lived—they are historical and unknown characters who lived more than 200 years ago. It’s up to me to weave together their stories in such a manner that complicated situations are readable as fiction. Thus, unlike Buckley, I’m not making up their world. Conversations and interactions will emerge from documents in my files.
The characters have become a social circle for me, friends I’m getting to know and introduce to others as I write. While I write about their real and enhanced lives they are as real to me as are my current day friends.
I’ve had some interesting experiences while trying to write the story, two of which are climbing Schoodic Mountain and visiting The Ovens, both in Maine.
Writing this novel is different from writing journalism, with the frustrations equal to and often greater than writing news features.
Being a novelist means taking on difficult work with low pay—although journalists are not paid well, either. It’s not for those with weak self-motivation or those desiring expensive worldly goods or fame. It’s not for those who expect to write the Great American Novel.
As for me, as I write my novel I’ve passed the excitement, hope, and dreams of writing the Great American I’ve had to stop writing my novel as life happenings interrupt the process. I’ve had to stop writing my novel with each core of research I need to do. I’m having to write in genres that are challenging to me—for example, romances.
There are times I feel such despair that I want to drop the novel, to forget writing it. The task is too big, too all-encompassing, too wearing, too unrewarding.
However, each time I restart writing after an interruption I experience a seed of these elation, of entering a new journey. Each time I complete writing a difficult passage a mini-elation rouses itself.
Furthermore, there are certain rewards that offer elation. People are really interested and encouraging when I summarize my novel’s core premise to them. Other writers ask how to get an agent and I’ve had an agent approach me. Standing on the same ground as my main character did over 200 years ago—especially climbing Schoodic Mountain, as she did, reaching its top, brought on intense elation. The people I’ve met along the way, the sights I’ve experienced, have been delightful.
It’s kind of like taking on any task, any job—even life. The beginning comes with a bucket full of excitement, hope, dreams. Reality sets in when it is discovered that this new challenge comes with its own challenges, not unlike those of previous tasks and jobs. However, if able to follow through until the end, this basket of despair becomes a sugar rush of elation when it’s rewarded with further advancement and success.
At that point you can say Well done, young person, well done.
I’m hoping I have sufficient self-discipline and enough lifetime left to complete my novel, to experience the sugar rush of elation as I write the final words: The End.
And when I do I will say Well done, old lady, well done.