At the end of each year, I sit down and reflect on what I’ve learned in the last 365 days. Sometimes they’re big ah-ha moments, and other times I simply remind myself of things I’ve known for a while. I think this process helps me approach the New Year with a little bit more care and gratitude.
One of the big things I did last year was write my first romance novel to completion. I’ve loved the genre since I was a preteen, and I’ve been writing almost as long. And in the spirit of the New Year I thought it would be nice (possibly helpful) to reflect on what I’ve learned.
1. Having someone expecting my first 5,000 words was a great motivator to just get started
I met one of my beta readers at a workshop our local RWA chapter held and we subsequently went for coffee where I found out 1) she’s funny AF and down to earth and 2) she was totally willing to read the story I’d been mulling over for weeks.
"I felt like Bilbo Baggins on a goddamn mission."
Perfect. Someone who loves romance and could give me feedback on what I’d written. The problem was I only had ~1000 words of nonsensical prose. But you better believe when she told me to send her the first 5,000 words of my manuscript, I felt like Bilbo Baggins on a goddamn mission. I feverishly got those words out and pressed send soon after.
2. Watching YouTube videos about the “top 1000 mistakes new writers make” wasn’t…the best idea
The last thing I needed to hear when I was in the thick of drafting was how I was doing everything wrong. But there I was, a dozen videos in, listening to other writers talk about passive voice, sagging middles, poorly developed characters, and the dangers of running on coffee alone.
After a long stretch of not writing (brought to you by the fear of inadequacy), I realized that I needed to tackle one thing at a time. When I’m still trying to pinpoint my characters’ arcs, I don’t really need to think about overusing adverbs or contemplate my relationship to semicolons.
3. Act two made me question EVERYTHING
I visualized the beginning of my story long before I put fingers to keyboard, and I knew the end would come if I could figure out the middle part where things™ happen. But the confidence I had at the beginning evaded me as I trudged into the abyss of act two.
Did I start the book in the right place? Is this coming off as sexual tension or a just stilted conversation? Wait, how many words do I need to make this a novel? I didn’t really quash my overanalyzing, but I think it eventually served me well once I began revisions.
4. What makes smut awkward isn’t writing it
I didn’t find smut difficult to write. Well, not any harder (🍆😏) than writing other scenes. What made my hands falter while writing smut was the thought of particular people in my life reading it.
But just as I said in an earlier point, I realized I had to focus on just getting through the draft. Why stress over the feasibility of redacting pages of sex scenes for family members and childhood teachers when I haven’t even finished the manuscript, never mind know what my publishing path will look like.
5. I had fun.
"The [writing] process feels like threading a needle."
I love writing. For me, the process feels like threading a needle (stay with me). I have to concentrate. I might not get it the first time or even the second time. And maybe I have to step away for a bit because I get absolutely frustrated. But eventually, if I keep trying, I am victorious.
The euphoria is enough to push me into the next phase: sewing (or if we apply the metaphor to writing: revision). I write for that feeling that comes after I successfully stitch a bunch of words together.
I don’t know if with the more books I write that it’ll get easier to string words, scenes, and chapters together. But as long as I have ideas and I continue to find the process fulfilling, I’m gonna write.