That’s how long it took to write my first novel.
And as they say, the first novel is the worst. (They should add so is the latest.) In three years, my manuscript went through multiple rewrites, a few cycles of beta readers, and now slinks in my hard drive, waiting to be deleted on accident. Or on purpose. Probably purpose.
In case you’re curious, Roco is a contemporary forest fantasy about a squirrel who goes on an adventure with a teenaged rune mage. The villains are a backwoods clan of snakes in the guise of people; their leader, called Mother, wants to slither inside the mage to take over her body and command her powers. Think Yeerks meet ancient serpent gods.
Most of the story centers on the rune mage’s escape through a swathe of forest and her burgeoning friendship with a helpful Western Gray (a relationship initiated by magic). The book culminates in a final showdown between the deuteragonists and the snakefolk, with the denouement setting up a sequel.
Mari and Roco by Mowkiii
What I earned after an endless three years was first-hand knowledge of how demoralizing writing a book can be.
Maybe this isn’t the universal experience. Maybe this is just me. But every stage of the writing process took a tremendous physical and mental effort. There were very few moments that weren’t immensely painful. Outlines fell apart. Prose failed to meet expectations. Cuts were necessary to scenes and characters I loved.
Until now I never understood the ancient wisdom about how poison and medicine can be so interchangeable. Sometimes I felt like a snake had struck my talent. Others’ criticism was venomous to the soul, but a strong antidote to bad writing.
When the manuscript was complete, I took a literary sabbatical (that coincided with the late stages of the pandemic) to regrow my self-worth and recover a once saturated attention to the craft. Somehow my desire to write had become a limb cut, and I needed a period of restoration with a new, less-organic replacement. Someday, I hope, this spiritless return will feel like the old thing.
Now I am going to start (I almost said embark, ugh) on a new writing project. I’ve had this idea for a scifi adaptation of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Replace the island with a ship lost in space. Replace the hogs with robots (once servitors). Replace the fire with a distress beacon. Replace the beast with Bugs, the conch with a ship’s computer, and the regression into a primitive tribe with something like stormtroopers.
And replace a little white boy hero with someone interesting. (And not a white girl like they did in The 100.)
Miya by Mowkiii
In Mudball, my protagonist is a young girl named Saamiya, or Miya for short, and she’s going to need to save unruly teenagers from ship malfunctions, aliens, the ever-hostile presence of an airless freezing vacuum, and themselves.
And she might not succeed.
With my day job as a teacher horribly burdened by the pandemic, I’m going to start writing around 400 words a night. This seemed to have worked for Terry Pratchett and hopefully will work for me. If I write more than 400 in a day? That’s a win right there.
Here’s to writing. That faulty faucet that’s worth the water.
All art featured in this post was created by Mowkiii. She’s awesome. Here is her Twitter and she does commissions so ask nicely and pay up.