So, I'm writing a book...
It's a funny old thing, life. The curveballs, the unexpected, all the little oddities and surprises that somehow add up to the unique story of "you".
Last summer, I was approached by a company I'd done some copywriting for in the past. They've published a few popular boardgames, and wanted to expand the settings into fiction. For them, it's a legal thing. They need to shore up the IP of their settings in as many types of entertainment media as they can. So getting a book written for their most popular game makes business sense.
"Would you be interested in writing a novel based in our game world?" they asked me. I seem to recall thinking about it for all of one second before saying "yes!". After that, there were contracts to sort out, details of the project, all the sorts of behind the scenes stuff that goes on before the actual fun of writing begins. By the end of the negotiation the project had blossomed from a novel for one game to also include scripts for graphic novels of two more upcoming games they're doing.
In January, I admit I was having a crisis of faith. Faith in my own abilities, faith in myself. I was set to start writing the book in February, and was beginning to freak out. What if I couldn't do it? What if my prose wasn't any good? What if a meteor fell on my head and I died? The oh-so-familiar spiral of anxiety was becoming a whirlwind of self-doubt, and I was close to backing out of the whole thing.
And somewhere in there, I had a moment of clarity. I realized not only what an amazing opportunity this was (I've written short fiction in the past, and have wanted to write a novel for years now), but that folks who'd hired me in the past had enough faith in my ability to trust me with the flagship novel for their setting.
But the real "kick in the pants" moment for me came when a friend told me flat out "Stop ruminating and just do the work. 'Ruminating' is the essence of privilege." That really slapped me out of my funk.
I got home from that conversation, and just started banging out words. Not even related to the work-for-hire project, just started writing on another novel I'd been mulling over for a while. Within a week or two on that, I had 10k solid words, and the beginning of something good. I've had to put it aside while working on the contract book, but I'll be getting back to it soon.
Which brings me to the contract piece. I've been writing on it regularly and consistently for the last 2+ months. Right now, I'm at about 52k words, and I'm happy with it. It's not polished, and it won't win any awards in its current state. But I'm getting it done. I'm on track to hit my 95k target by the end of May, and then I'll have time to polish it until it gleams.
I'm reminded of the old saw about an artist saying the way to sculpt something is to get a block of marble, and knock off all the stuff that doesn't look like what you're sculpting. But in this case, I feel like I've been at the quarry for the last couple of months trying to get my block of stone out of the ground.
But most importantly to me, is that I'm just doing the work. What Steven Pressfield calls "Butt in chair time" in his book "the War of Art". It's rough work, but I'm loving it.
The thing I've enjoyed the most so far, though, is those moments where I'm writing and something pops into the story and I have no idea why it's there. But all the writing books say to "trust the process" and "let the story tell itself", and all that. So when something weird pops into my head while I'm writing, I just trust that it's for a reason, and put it in. And then as I keep working suddenly I get a flash of an idea that explains why that thing was important. Sometimes it happens shortly after the initial idea, sometimes it's days or weeks later. But it keeps happening.
All those funny little random pieces that click together, and the puzzle solves itself. And all I have to do is keep putting one word after another until it all comes clear.