My Struggle Writing an Epic Fantasy Novel: Finalizing and Not Thinking You're a Failure
This is one of my favorite 'how to write' books because of all the hilarious examples of what not to do.
Finalizing and not thinking you’re a failure
There is a lot of question (at least for me) as to when a book is finished. I’ve read a lot of published books that could have used another few rounds of editing, and I’ve read books that seemed so perfect that I could never measure up to such detailed storytelling. So I have no idea where my book falls in between. There really is no way to measure how ‘done’ you are with your book. There are only ways to measure how done you aren’t. For example, if your book is just a first draft, it definitely isn’t done, no matter how much you believe in it. And you certainly aren’t done if there are major plot holes, missing scenes or anything else that prevents the story from having a beginning, a middle and an end. So at least we have these vague ways to measure the progress of a book. But how do we know when another re-write is overkill? Or an edit is just re-telling the exact same thing it used to be saying? These are situations where you must enact the full power of authorship. You alone have the deciding vote in whether or not an edit is used or the book is considered ‘done’. You have to stop and ask yourself if the book accomplishes what you set out to do, is it coherent, and will further edits just be beating a dead horse? I’ve been running into this more and more lately, which is why I know my book is near completion. I find myself making edits that serve little to no purpose because the story still made sense even with the old versions still in there. So at this point it’s just a matter of finding plot holes, making sure all loose ends are tied and that there are no spelling or formatting mistakes.
Now, there is another part to finishing your book that you will probably run into. The part where you think you’re a failure. For example, my biggest thing is how long it has taken me to write this book. I started writing it in 2003, and it is currently 2010 (as of the writing of this article). Which means after seven years of work my story still isn’t finished. I justify this any number of ways; the first draft was a short story written by a high schooler, not an established novelist, I was learning constantly as I grew as a writer, and since it’s a fantasy a lot of time was eaten up building the world, and I didn’t write this book exclusively; nor was I constantly writing. All of these arguments are true, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like I write like a turtle on some sort of narcotic. And it begs the question; would I take another seven years to write a second book? The answer is no, but until I get to that point, I won’t actually have any evidence of it. I mentioned earlier that I used to write in the summers between college semesters, but I have been out of school since December 2008, and this creates even more opportunities to beat myself up; “why isn’t it finished yet?” “You should be spending more time writing and less time doing recreational things” “You should be providing for your family, not being lazy.”
And this brings me to the next part of my perceived failure; I have the added problem of financial debt. Working a part time job can only pay the bills for so long before I start losing money each month. Therefore an increasing amount of pressure has been applied to my book in recent years. Finishing it has not just become a personal goal but a financial one as well. I don’t expect it to be a smash success, but ANY source of income is something I greatly need right now (hence why I’m writing on HubPages). This has been a rather toxic thing to happen to my book, since my daily work on it is often considered pointless if I don’t edit a huge amount or make major strides towards completion. It’s very hard not to think of the book as a source of income since I need one so badly. I desperately try to remember the humble roots of creating the world and the characters, but too often do I think “I need to get this done. Why isn’t it done yet? If I don’t finish it my life will tumble out of control.” Etc. I’m probably being melodramatic, J. K. Rowling managed to write Harry Potter in a coffee shop while her baby was asleep, but I have a lot to prove with this book. I need to prove that the last seven years I spent writing weren’t wasted. I need to prove that my degree in creative writing isn’t useless for working in the real world. I need to prove that I’m not just a writer, but a GOOD writer, one that people will pay money to read. And I need to prove, above all else, that I can achieve my dream. For me this is immensely important because it is so hard to remain positive and optimistic in the adult world when so many external factors are screwing you over on a daily basis. I need to prove to myself and those around me that good things can happen and that dreams can be achieved. No, the book probably won’t make millions of dollars for me, nor will critics probably like it, but dang it, if I can just hold that book in my hands; if I can walk into a bookstore and see myself on the shelf, then all of it will have been worth it.
And so my advice to new and existing fantasy authors is to never stop trying. Writing this genre, and many others, requires an immense amount of self discipline, and countless hours of work with seemingly no reward. But we can’t give up. Not just to create stories new readers will cherish, but to prove to the world that achieving the improbable is still possible. That working for yourself and overcoming opposition is still worth doing.
Set attainable goals and get writing!