Writing a novel is a traumatic experience. Experts agree that the process happens in five distinct stages.
1. Denial and Isolation
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life… For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”
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The writer secludes herself from society. The writer tries to write. She puts words on a page. So many words, yet still too few. It’s common at this beginning stage for the writer to attempt to rationalize why she isn’t writing more. There’s just not enough time in the day or she needed to binge watch the latest Netflix show. The writer lies to herself but she cannot lie to her novel. It sits there, on the screen or typewriter, unfinished. Until one fateful day it is finished.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
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It’s garbage. The manuscript is complete garbage. The writer knows he is a hack, a wannabee, a good-for-nothing. The writer gets mad. He tantrums. He throws things. His favorite mug is broken. Now he cannot drink coffee. He shoves his manuscript through a paper shredder. The writer lashes out at friends and family for never supporting his dreams. The writer’s father tells him he should do something practical instead of writing a damn book. The writer fumes.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
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The writer painstakingly reassembles the shreds of paper. Maybe if she rewrote the beginning, middle, and end of her novel it could be good. She secretly prays to a higher authorial power to bestow her manuscript with the spark of genius that she so desperately wishes to possess. The writer makes a few edits, changes her mind, and tries to undo what has already been undone. She tries to save a chapter that she absolutely loves but hurts the story. It’s too late. It’s already gone.
Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.”
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Sadness. The rejection letters piling up are longer than the manuscript itself. The writer sits at home, more alone than ever, and writes query letter after query letter. Nobody wants his novel. He mopes around the house and thinks about self-publishing. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
“Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.”
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The sad aspect of this stage is that not every writer gets to this point. An editor or agent somewhere has seen a hint of potential in the manuscript. It has been accepted for publication. The writer is going to get published. The writer is at peace.
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