In October, I will finally publish my first novel.
This moment has been a long time coming. I started writing the first, roughest version of Above Ground back in early 2009, and not once did I think it would take me over three years to be where I am today.
Writing Above Ground has been a long journey. A hard journey. But — now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel — it’s clear that this project has taught me more about writing than any other thus far.
Lessons Learnt From Writing My First Novel
The first time’s the hardest.
I started and abandoned three other novels before I hit upon Above Ground. Each time I’d given up because I’d hit a roadblock and didn’t know how to push on through. I’d never finished a novel before, didn’t know if I could finish a novel. I was so invested in my stories, so passionate, that when I hit a hard part I would get frustrated and quit.
Perseverance is key.
I learnt that the trick was to keep writing, to push out that draft — however awful — if only to give me the confidence that I COULD write a novel. I owe great thanks to the webfiction community, for what kept me writing Above Ground was that I posted each chapter online. It taught me to write regularly and to power through the tough bits. Not to mention that the reader comments and support gave me the confidence I needed to keep on going.
It’ll never be perfect.
One of the reasons why Above Ground has taken so long to complete is because I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. I’ve rewritten it twice, and as my writing style develops, I keep wanting to go back and amend, revise, improve… It’s not ready yet, I keep thinking. But you can only polish a stone so much; I’ve learnt when to let go.
Outline, outline, outline.
I utterly pantsed Above Ground, and while the subsequent editing and revisions taught me a lot of hard lessons about plot holes and character development, I’m determined to never be in that sticky situation ever again. I am an outlining-enthusiast now: it saves time, speeds up the writing process, and reduces rewriting.
You get better at it.
The projects I’ve worked on since starting Above Ground have been so much less daunting. The writing process has been smoother, with less revisions and rewriting. I’ve learnt what works for me, what to avoid. I’ve gained confidence.
In the last year alone, I’ve outlined three more novels I’d like to write. The plot construction, pacing, character development… it comes more naturally now. It’s easier.
You never stop learning.
Writing Above Ground has helped me grow as a writer. But it has also shown me that writing improves with practice, and — like any other skill — the better you get at it, the more you want to learn.
No doubt I’ll come across new challenges with every book I write as my expectations for my writing grow, but at least now I know: I can do this.
What about you? What have you learnt from writing?