First Novel Fears

I’ve decided I must become focused on the act of finishing my current novel for the month of October. The past few days have been, not unproductive, but wasted somehow. I’ve been focused on all the wrong things. Instead of committing myself to completing  my current WIP – which is very close to conclusion – I am experimenting with other ideas, planning this year’s NaNo attempt and generally procrastinating because I am afraid to finish novel number 1.

There I said it: I’m scared of finishing the first draft of my novel. 

I have never written a novel before. Last November I sat down and dedicated myself to this very task and in the process of ‘winning’ the challenge I set myself up to be in a position I’d never experienced before: I had the bulk of my first book sitting before me waiting to be finished.

There is that old cliché about that unfinished manuscript in every writer’s desk and I so desperately don’t want to conform to this stereotype, even though I know that finishing the first draft is by no means a completed work. Still, it’s a huge milestone in any writer’s career: ‘The End’ of that first ever epic story you hardly believed you could write. Surely it deserves some serious recognition?

Well, part of my fear comes from not understanding exactly what celebration to put in place when I achieve that unlikely scenario of typing those fateful words to finish the novel. Another part is the huge amount of work that will follow this: the editing process, the rewrite, the admittance that mistakes have been made and I have to tear my ‘baby’ to pieces in order to create that masterpiece I dream about. That in itself seems like a thankless, never-ending set of chores.

In addition, I never really thought passed this point of my dream. The immense task of having to write a novel seemed so insurmountable a year ago that the very idea it would ever be completed never really entered my mind – even though that is what I was working toward. There is now the uncertainty of ‘what happens next’ that plagues my thoughts and not really understanding the answer that accompanies it (I’m not sure I know how to ‘edit’ or rewrite sufficiently – I’ve feel like I’ve only just learned to really write…!).

So, to tackle the bigger picture phobia I seem to be suffering from I am going to focus my mind on getting the little details completed: the individual scenes and necessary character twists that will help me work toward that fateful moment when there is nothing left to write. I’m not going to think about the day when there will be no more words to add, or when I’ll have to stop contributing to my characters so that their lives no longer exist pass a certain point. Those things are the scary bits. What I can do is write…and continue to write until that point whereupon my story is told.

Only then will I be able to acknowledge the enormity of the task I have just finished and celebrate somehow in the glory that comes with knowing the narrative you have created is all there, ready to be critiqued by your inner reader. Until then, writing is my only comfort…it’s the only thing I know I can continue to do until I get to the part where there is no push to tell ‘what happens next’.


11 responses to “First Novel Fears

  1. I understand where you’re coming from because the starting of new projects has always been an absolute distraction for me!

    I make the mistake of writing ‘enough’ so that I can see the shape of the whole thing (dimly), and then I feel as though it is ‘safe’ to move on because I’m not going to lose sight of anything. Sadly, I’m fairly sure this is a lie. That’s why I have so many long-abandoned shards of novels and short stories lying about on my hard drive!

    You will feel so good to have finally finished novel 1 just before NaNo starts for novel 2, though, so I hope you find the determination to power on through this month. 🙂

    • Thanks. I know just what you mean by the distractions of other projects…I think I must be similar. It’s always reassuring to find that you’re not the only one procrastinating about writing and finishing those stories.
      Good luck for your own attempts at completing all those ideas…Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish mine this month and tell you all the secret to those final words ‘The End’!
      Take Care, and thanks for reading/commenting. Cat

  2. Firstly (((((hugs)))))

    There, now we’ve got that out of the way 🙂

    Are you a member of the Insecure Writers Support Group honey? Would definitely be worth posting this on Wednesday.

    I really don’t think you’re alone in the way you feel. Lets be honest, this whole writing malarkey is very scary! They say, don’t they, that the idea of ‘writing’ as a career is, really, utter madness. There are a lot of jobs out there where you’d make far more money and be a lot less stressed, but I digress 😉

    I have an unfinished 65,000 word manuscript that’s been sitting on my hard drive for 2 years, unfinished. I HATE editing, the thought of rewriting the whole thing (as its got HUGE plot problems) scares the hell out of me. Surely, if I just leave it there the plot fairy will come and sort it all out? No? Damn! 😉 I WILL return to it one day, but since then I have written another novel, which I DID manage to finish 🙂

    Would taking a break from it help? Working on something else?

    Good luck honey, don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember, there’s always another story around the corner 🙂


    • Ah, the calming influence of virtual hugs. Many Thanks Vikki. I have thought about becoming a member of the Insecure Writer’s Group, but I never really get around to it.
      Shame the plot fairy appears to have retired…I could do with her help too! I don’t want to take a break for fear that I’d never get back to it though: NaNo will definitely get my mind off it once I’ve finally completed it and started the glory of another attempt at 50,000 words in a month! Then maybe the edits won’t seem so scary..
      Thanks for your comment and support hon. Take Care, Cat

  3. Hey, Cat. I feel ya. I think Neil is right about the analogy with not wanting to let go of the kids. I’ve gone through the rewrite process before. For me, in some ways, it was easier than the first write, because lots of times you aren’t writing new content, but are just adjusting what you already wrote. Moving things. Removing things. Some was new content, but not to the degree of the first draft. Just stick with it. Try to enjoy yourself, all will be well, and just do what you love to do.

    • Thanks Dan – you’re right: I need to focus a little more on the enjoyable parts of writing the final few scenes, rather than get myself worked up over it! And it’s good to get reassurance that the re-write may not be as mammoth a task at the first write…
      Hope your short stories are coming along well, Cat

  4. Interesting that you say this, as I’ve been wondering why I’m struggling to get motivated to finish my first pass edit on my book. I wonder if there’s an element of ‘never wanting to let go’ – much like parents with children.

    In a way, I find it heartening that JK Rowling, having had had such success with her Harry Potter books said last week that she would like to go back and rework two of that series.

    • That is how it feels – not wanting to let go of the writing process, possibly because the idea of editing is quite terrifying! It’s good to know I’m not the only one!
      Take Care, Cat

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