I have been working on my full-length manuscript for eight years. That’s a long time to be working on something that so many authors can get done in six months. I’d written short stories, won contests; I even had the early sweet success of getting my story “Harbinger” featured in a published anthology, From Nightmares and Shadows.
So what happened at that point?
Three household moves. A parent that tragically passed away. Severe financial hardship.
I kept putting off what I had to do in order to deal with everything that kept coming at me. I told myself that tomorrow I would do it. It was a conscience soothing bedtime fairytale for a writer. Because tomorrow is always possible, it holds all the flash and promise of a Vegas roulette table.
Tomorrow, I’d write.
Except, I didn’t.
I’d have spurts of creativity and I’d get something done. I actually managed to finish the first draft while being caretaker to my mother.
Then she died, and everything imploded. I had no desire to write, in fact, the content of my MS dealt with a mother and daughter relationship. It was perfectly valid reason to avoid starting to edit it, to me anyway. I felt guilty. I was depressed that I couldn’t get it going again. There were writers who had achieved so much, why couldn’t I be like them? I consoled myself that I hadn’t given up; I was just waiting to write.
It’s what we say when we are afraid. I’m waiting to write until my kids are out of the house. I’m waiting to write until I retire. I’m waiting to write until I have the time.
You will never have the time. It’s just that simple. You make the time or you don’t. As Yoda said, there is no try, there is only do or do not.
Life is like the Terminator. It can’t be bargained with. Or reasoned with. It knows no mercy or compassion; it will just keep coming at you. Writing can quickly give way to its relentless charge unless you dig in your heels and say, no, not this, I’m not giving this up. Guard your writing like a mother bear and her cub.
Is your writing thing more than a hobby? Is it your passion, your fever dream, your penultimate goal? If the answer is yes, then find a way to stick with it. Even if you only write a paragraph a day, do it.
When you make it to your first full-length draft, then you face the Holy Grail of tests. Because diving into the edits on a 90,000 word or more draft can strike abject fear into the heart of any valiant quester.
These three points are what got me through to the story I always meant to write.
- Find out what parts are going to take real effort, what might take moderate effort and what will take the least effort. Put clearly in mind what ones will affect future plot lines and keep a wary eye on what might change when you fix them.
- If it’s possible, print out the story on paper. Seeing the words in print, on a full page, not the abbreviated small font of a computer page, can bring things to the surface that I guarantee you missed the first eight times you read it. If that’s not possible, boost your computer screen view percentage to 150% or more. Seeing the words in large size does something, especially for grammar slip-ups.
- When you’re done, put it away. For as long as you can stand it. You can’t imagine what you’ll see when you read it over.
Don’t lose faith in that very first moment of discovery, that miraculous "What If" moment, and when all else seems lost, goes back to it. Recreate that cosmos-creating atom-splitting second in all its sweet satisfaction. Use it like a touchstone to re-center yourself.
Don’t wait to write, just write. Life isn’t going to wait or hold off. There is no such thing as the time or the place; there is only the desire.
Karyne Corum is a Jersey born woman living in a North Carolina world. A firm believer in the life affirming properties of sarcasm, she partakes of it every day. She has written several winning short stories for online publications. Her supernatural short story, “Harbinger” was featured in a Night Fall publication in the anthology, From Nightmares and Shadows. She is hard at work on her suspense novel set in New Jersey.
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