From Dana: This is a guest post by Kelly Gurnett. Kelly runs the inspiring and entertaining blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger here. I love the spunk Kelly mixes in with the great tips at her blog, and I was so excited to learn that she’s finally working on a novel! I hope you’ll all keep an eye on her this year, and let her know we’re looking forward to seeing the project come to fruition!
Eighteen years (approximately). That’s how long the idea for my Grand Novel has been kicking around in my head, writing and rewriting itself until I’ve lost all track of which version is which and where the story is ultimately supposed to end up.
I’ve got a whole collection of excuses for why this is. The reasons why I shouldn’t finally commit my story to paper are plenty — and sound logical enough (which is why they’re so tempting). But this story has been prodding at the back of my mind for so long now it’s time to finally take one giant gulp and dive in, for god’s sake. Otherwise, I may never do it.
And that is simply not acceptable.
So here goes…
Why I Shouldn’t Write My Novel (And Why I’m Going to Anyway)
1. I have absolutely no idea what the frack it’s about.
Oh, I know what it’s thematically about—revolution and beauty and love and all that stuff—but some of the biggest, most seemingly important items are terrifyingly blank. I have particular scenes very firmly in mind, and I know my character like BFFs (you would, too, if you’d been hanging with them for nearly two decades). But the overall plot line and end game are a mystery to me. Those are kinda big things.
But, if I’ve learned anything from attempting NaNoWriMo, it’s that knowing where your story is going is highly overrated, if not completely foolish. Because even if you do have an airtight outline, the characters will wind up going where they please, and all you can do is follow along as fast as you can. It’s not my job to dictate the story, just to document it as it unfolds.
2. It’s about 18 years too late.
The glorious story in my head is, for all intents and purposes, a fairy tale dystopian YA book. There’s a girl and a power she’s fighting and two guys both trying to win her, and…stop me if you’re heard this one before. What can I possibly write that won’t be a sad amateur wannabe of The Hunger Games and the Matched trilogy and about a zillion other, much more effective franchises?
But, every story ever told has already been written a zillion times over in different forms. Just like I tell the bloggers I advise, there is no topic you can cover that hasn’t already been covered, sometimes by bloggers much larger than you. But no one else can cover it the way you can. No one else has your perspective or your voice. If this story wants to be written, then who am I to hide in a corner and say “not it”?
3. It doesn’t match my “brand.”
I’ve worked hard to build up an online presence through my blog and my freelance work. And a dystopian YA fantasy novel isn’t exactly going to skyrocket my value as a blogger trying to extricate herself from the 9-5. It doesn’t fit the current portfolio.
But, who the hell cares if it does? I’m allowed to have side hobbies, and if writing a silly fantasy novel is one of them, so be it. As long as the story doesn’t blatantly fly in the face of the professional image I’ve constructed, it doesn’t matter if it can’t be packaged neatly in a “Cordelia 101” product bundle. (Who’d want to be so one-note, anyway?)
4. Once it’s on paper, it is guaranteed, without exception, to suck.
This is, far and away, the biggest hurdle—and the one that has kept me dragging my feet for such a ridiculous amount of time.
The thing about keeping something in your head forever is that it gets to maintain that nice, pretty little halo of perfection around it. (Much like that guy you really, really like but don’t have the nerve to approach, because OMG, then he might talk to you, and then what?) In my head, my little story can always be “the Grand Novel that could be.” Once on paper, it will inevitably become the story that is — a story I’m working on just like any other project, not nearly as fantastic as it sounded in my head. It will suck. A lot. I will mess it up. And, as much as I polish and chisel and sand it, it will still, in the end, never be quite as amazing as it could have been when it was only an idea.
But, if I do not exhume this thing, if it only ever stays “the Grand Novel that could be” and never actually is, I know for a fact that I will regret it for the rest of my life.
And that overrules all other objections.
Best of luck, Kelly! You’re not the only one wrestling with getting a project started for these reasons — hopefully this helps kick a few butts in gear ;)
Is there an item on your Bucket List you’ve been putting off that you can get started on in 2013?
Featured image by Kelly Cookson (Creative Commons)