my year of writing

Those who read my blog often will have probably noticed that I have a tendency toward long tangential preambles before I actually get to the point of my post. It doesn’t always happen, but I feel like it happens enough to be a thing here.

Anyway, before I get carried away, I was going to say that this time I’m going to just get to the point straight away because I feel like this might end up being quite a long post (allow me to indulge a bit please?), and I feel like the courteous thing to do is to just let you know, straight up, what this is about: I have finished writing my first novel.

The key phrase here is “finished writing”. The story is finished, but it still needs some thorough editing and proofreading. I did kind of edit and proofread as I went (which probably contributed to this endeavour taking longer than it probably should have) but I reckon it definitely needs a few thorough re-reads to ensure it’s a cohesive bit of text.

The next noteworthy word here is “novel”. I just went by the definition I found via a basic Google search one day, which said that a novel, as distinguished from a novella, should have at least 50,000 words. By this definition, my story easily qualifies. However, “novel” just sounds like such a grand title (to an amateur like me, anyway), and I kind of feel more comfortable calling it a “book” or “novel-length story”. Perhaps I can call myself a “writer” now, as opposed to “a person who writes for a hobby”, but I don’t think I could accept the title of “author” (nor would I expect anyone to offer it to me) until I actually get something legitimately published.

The writing itself I actually finished yesterday, January 3rd 2016; I just haven’t gotten around to writing this post until now. It was shortly after 12:40pm (I remember because it was almost lunch time) when I realised that I’d written the final sentence. It was an unbelievable feeling. I spent the next ten minutes saying “oh my gosh” over and over again to myself (I was home alone) while making about three back-up copies of the manuscript (even the word “manuscript” sounds too fancy for what I wrote).

The whole process had started in the early hours of January 1st 2015 – by which I mean it started just after midnight of December 31st 2014. To be more accurate, it would’ve started a while before then, whenever it was that I first conceived the idea for this story, but I didn’t actually open up a Word document and start typing until that night. Yeah, I know, it was a very exciting New Year’s!

Being a typical bookworm/nerd, I’d always wanted to write a book/novel, so last year I just told myself that that was it – enough waiting for the right idea/moment/mood. I gave myself a 365 day deadline, and now here I am. Admittedly, I had to give myself a three-day extension, but I feel like it was justified because I reckon I could have finished it comfortably within the deadline if I hadn’t been very abruptly transferred to Rocky for three weeks in December (and also if I hadn’t procrastinated a lot during the year…)

Right now, I want to give myself a break from looking at it or thinking about it, so that I can jump into the editing process with a clear mind. The goal of this, I should mention, is actually not to get published, but to get it to a good enough standard that I can let others read it. At the very least, I want to polish it enough that I can look back on this and feel satisfied with what I’ve done – maybe even a bit proud as well. (Who am I kidding? I’m a bit proud of it already. But I’d like to be just “proud” of it.)

There were many times last year, as I was writing, planning or procrastinating, when I thought that the whole thing just wasn’t good enough, and that it wouldn’t be good enough. But then sometimes I would ask myself, “good enough for what?” Other times, I would just tell myself “who cares, just write it anyway”, and that got me through a lot.

In his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami writes about his experiences in various marathons, an ultramarathon (62 miles (that’s almost 100km for those of us who prefer metric measurement)), and a number of triathlons. He includes anecdotes and descriptions of his training and all the pain and suffering he’s endured to complete these races. In the end, he points out that a lot of people might think that that sort of lifestyle (of continuously training for and competing in these events) might be pointless or an “inefficient” way to live – he compares it to “pouring water into an old pan that has a hole in the bottom”.

They were the kind of thoughts I sometimes had during the writing process – all those “what is the point?” type of questions that I asked myself, and I thought others would be asking of me too (obviously it’d be coming from those who don’t understand the basic need to write). But Murakami says that stuff doesn’t bother him (at least not with training for marathons, etc) because it’s about being able to “grasp something of value”, and sometimes that involves doing seemingly futile things. (I don’t think I’m paraphrasing this very well, but I just thought it was really relatable.)

There’s a lot more I want to write on this (including content from Murakami’s running book) but this post is starting to get a bit too long, even by my standards. I think it’s time to rest, so that I can do more tomorrow.