Three days after I submitted Another Kind of Monster to the publisher for copyediting, I began my first “proper” novel.
This book, more than anything I have ever written, holds a special place in my heart. Since Lovergirl is told in diary format, Queen of Hearts feels like my first traditional novel. Queen of Hearts was also the first novel I wrote knowing, from the beginning, that it would be a novel.
And that scared the fuck out of me.
I outlined, sure. I forced myself to write five pages every day. But I was still terrified.
I tell my students to figure out what techniques work for them to help write. Some people work best in coffee shops, some work best alone. Some people need cigarettes.
For me, I chew gum, and take dog walks when I need to brainstorm, and I have to blast the techno, preferably Deadmau5 (via headphones), while I stare at the empty screen. Otherwise I can’t concentrate to save my life. I also have to eat a lot of carbs.
But like every writer knows, while these devices may facilitation concentration, they still don’t write the book for you. Somehow the words have to get onto the page, and you have to put them there.
I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration. That just becomes an excuse to validate procrastination. There was no slack cut. I wrote every day. I wrote every day because that was the only way to finish—and also because I knew that if I stopped, I might never start again.
I finished the first draft of the book in three months. Many parts of it were weak and shoddy and one-dimensional, and I was embarrassed for them and for me, but it was a first draft. And most importantly, it was a first draft of an entire book.
The hardest part, in my opinion, is getting the content on the page. Once it’s there, you can bully it into submission, you can inflate it into three-dimensionality. The tricky part is just getting the words to line up in rows. Editing is practically recreational, but writing is manual labor.
There are no short cuts. There is just the simple act of staring yourself in the face and telling yourself that it must get done. And if you’re a writer, you’ll know there is no other option. So you write. One word at a time. Until the chasm is filled.
And then you start the next book.