The Beauty of Writing a Novel

Anyone who knows me will know that for the last sixteen months, I’ve been working on my first novel. (Well, I say with optimism that it’s my first, but after this experience I may well decide never, ever to attempt this again).

I’ve dedicated myself fully to this project. I even bought myself a bigger desk, twice the size of the dinky thing I’ve worked at for the last year, in the hope that the words will flow as freely as they tend to pop into my head when I’m on the loo or cooking dinner. And, I have to admit, it works for the most part: I have my own ‘office’, I go to ‘work’ everyday, I set myself proper writing deadlines.

The truth is, when I started to write this story last July, it wasn’t supposed to turn into the massive 130,000 word mess it is now. It was just an idea that I had in my early twenties, one of many throwaway ideas that came back to me. I’d tried writing this particular story before, but got bored after 4,000 words, and assumed that the idea was unworkable. Little did I realise that in the space of nine years, this idea would become all-consuming and that I would never be happy, not really, until it’s out of my system. And hopefully, the first crappy draft will be written by Christmas, though I may be over-optimistic at this stage. (by the way, first drafts are supposed to be crappy, so I’ve been told).

Writing a novel is both tremendous fun and an enormous pain in the backside. I’m in control of my main character. I can make her do anything I like (although a lot of the time she goes off and does her own thing). Making everything tie together seems to be my biggest challenge at the moment, along with organically tying in important statistics and facts into the fabric  of my story.

And it’s tiring. At the moment, ‘work’ seems to consist of opening Microsoft Word and staring at the words for three hours. Some weeks are more productive than others, and it’s during the bad weeks that I try to tell myself that if this was a ‘real’ job, I would have to grit my teeth, sit at my desk and work regardless. I’m creatively wrecked at the moment, but I’m afraid that if I don’t sit at my desk every day and plug away at it, nothing will get done.

That, I think, is the crux of it. Fear. The fear of being made to look like an idiot if I can’t manage to get this book finished and into the hands of readers. Fear that if my book is never published that I might have to abandon the prospect of having a writing career and start all over again. fear that nobody will like my book, or understand where the main character is coming from. I have successfully managed to push fear just to the edges of my brain so that I can write freely. I try not to think of you guys, my audience, too much so that I can stay true to my character and the situations she finds herself in.

I’m also afraid of success (getting ahead of myself I know) and afraid that I am offering more  of myself than I’m willing to give. Having Martin Naughton pass away has only cemented my desire to continue, in my own small, insignificant way, to change the world. I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world where disability is something to be pitied, an ‘other’. Nor do I want her to live in a world where the only disabled people worth talking about is the ones who ‘triumph over adversity’ ‘defeat the  odds’, achieve more than people expect of them. All of our stories are worth telling: the successes, the failures and everything in-between.

I don’t want any regrets on my deathbed, any ‘what-ifs’. All I want is to make a difference and not rest until it’s made. And writing’s the only way I know how to do this.

In this spirit of determination, I will keep going, in the hope that I have something worthwhile to contribute.


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