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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Making the leap

Writing is an act of faith.

How else could you keep going on the same path for months — possibly even years — until you get to that elusive “the end,” knowing that at any point in the process, you could conceivably be driven off the road?

When I was in college, I took a class in Catholic Theology (I went to a Jesuit university, so we had lots of amazing classes in this area), and one of the terms I learned — and never forgot — was “eschatological,” which can be summed up in one brief, but potent phrase: what will be and what will become. It’s a description of God’s love, and to help us grasp the concept, our professor gave us the example of marriage as an illustration of it. When a couple is married, their marriage is something that is (meaning, it exists today, in the here and now), but because it is also continuing to exist into the future, it will also become. The term is meant to describe something that exists today and doesn’t really have an end.

Even though there is an end (eventually — so they tell me! :)) to working on a novel, at times, it can often feel like it will go on forever. After the first draft, there will be multiple revisions. There will be copy edits and proof reading. Regardless of whether you have it traditionally published or self-published, there will be also be other people editing it. Other people proof-reading. And then, when it finally, FINALLY is ready for the printing stage, there will be probably always be things you’ll find, things you’ll be tempted to fix.

How long this entire process lasts will depend on the writer, but for many of us, especially with our first few attempts at this beast called novel-writing, it could easily take 2-3 years. That may not be a long time in the grand scheme of things, but believe me, it feels very long on this end of that timeline. It feels very eschatological, even though I know there will be a time when it will be finished and I can officially say, “I’ve written this novel, and now I’m moving on to the next.”

And that’s where the faith comes in. Because until I get to that finish line, I will always have that little voice inside me that whispers, “What if you don’t finish? What if real life — the day job, the obligations, the commitments, family and friends — takes over and drives you off the road for good? What if you do get to the end, but no one cares? What if everyone hates it?” When you begin working on a novel, it’s because you believe, deep in your gut, that the idea living inside you is one that will resonate with others. That the people and world you bring life to will get others as excited about them as you are every time you get to sit down and write about them. And in the end, it is this belief — this strong intuition that the work will be worth it — that supplies the necessary faith to keep going.

Yes, there is the chance that something may happen between now and then (however far into the future then may be) to derail me. Yes, there is a chance that I may actually get to the finish line and write the damn thing — and then no one will think it’s any good. But there is also the chance that I will fly past that finish line and that this will connect with a large, passionate group of people. I have to believe the chance of the latter happening is more likely. I have to. Because if I don’t believe it, I won’t be able to keep going.

And keeping at it is the only way I’ll be able to finish this.

Balancing act

We writers are a strange breed. I’m pretty sure no one would argue this, right? We’ve heard it enough times from our friends and family — and let’s face it, we have enough self-awareness to know this ourselves.

We spend hours upon hours hanging out with fictional people — watching them walk and talk, giving them problems they must work out, giving them payoffs we dole out only when the time is ready, and we laugh, cry, and grow along with them. And when you do this day after day for an extended period of time, the thought of being away from these characters for even a day or two can result in a little bit of a panic.

At least it does for me. Folks, I think (no, I’m sure) I’m experiencing a little separation anxiety.

Since starting the first draft of The Polaris Uprising last month — literally a month ago, on September 12 — I can count on one hand the days I haven’t been working on it. I made it a goal to write every day unless it was really impossible to do so (an example: one of those days was due to a debilitating migraine that had me flat on my back for about 20 hours — fun!). I’ve been able to keep to that goal for the most part because my schedule has been flexible enough to do that, and as a result, I’ve been able to crank out a little over 16K words at this stage. This is probably a small word count total for most writers, I’m sure, but you must understand that it took me years (yes, you read that right, years) to get to this word count with my first novel. I’ve written more in a month than I did in the first two years I was working on my first novel. This is what writing every day has meant for me.

But now, we’re about to enter the busy zone.

This weekend is half marathon weekend for me and I will be running around (literally and figuratively!) for virtually the entire weekend. I’ll be lucky if I can fit any writing in. Then the end of the month brings a two-week trip to Italy — which I’m incredibly excited about, except once again, all I can think about is: “How much writing can I get in while I’m there?”

These are not normal thoughts, I realize that :).

It’s interesting to compare the experience of working on TPU to working on my first novel. As much as I loved that first one, I have to confess, it always filled me with dread working on it. I can say this now that it’s all behind me. My panic was around writing it. I’d come up with excuses not to work on it, I’d procrastinate, I’d hem and haw, I’d edit the same line or paragraph fifty million times before moving on. Whenever I’d finish a chapter, there’d be a huge wave of relief that I “got through it,” followed by more anxiety over having to work on the next one.

This time around? I’m filled with a rush every time I get to sit down and work on it. When I’m not working on it, I think about working on it. I forsake sleep  and going out and sometimes eating (ok, maybe not eating — I love food too much) to work on it. It’s like being in love — properly in love — for the first time and you rearrange everything in your life so you can spend every waking minute with that person. Or in this case, people: Ryla, Alanna, and Owen.

Life has its demands, though, and part of working on a novel is learning how to balance everything with writing. Most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to write full-time for a living, so we learn how to have a day job, nurture a social life, AND write. And maybe get a decent amount of sleep, but sometimes that’s optional.

This weekend will be my first big test in surviving several days away from my beloved characters. Doesn’t mean I won’t be thinking of them every second of every day (I’m about to start a new chapter, so those gears are definitely cranking as I think about how to dramatize the scenes I’ve outlined for it), but I won’t actually get to sit down and enter their world, as I’ve been doing (practically) every day for the last 30 days. I hope I make it through the withdrawal. And I hope it forces me to get better about balance and learning how to juggle an ambitious writing project with getting the most out of the other areas of my life, which I must admit I’ve been neglecting a little.

I’ll be working on this project for the next few years — I’ll have some time to get this whole thing down :).

All about finding balance…

Come follow me to my new home!

Please join me over at my new website! Please pardon the dust as I settle in 🙂

jenniferibarra.com