Another essay from Momus News. This time we consider, “Writing a book is such a huge undertaking: how do you finish one?”
When I started reading books, on my own, with enthusiasm, I recall being daunted by page length. I was rather proud when I read a twenty-five page short story. But these were books with collections of short stories. There was another story after that one.
Time passed and I began reading novels, once more intimidated by length but forging ahead. I was proud of myself for finishing a 300+ page book. Then it was 500 pages, then 700 pages, then…I forgot to keep track. Page length became meaningless. The story was all, and I just read until the story was over.
Writing a Book
I’ve been writing off and on since grade school. I’d go on a writing binge, pumping out stories, but always short stories. In my mind, a novel was a huge thing. I was intimidated by the length, again. I kept stories small, easy to manage.
Years later, after another hiatus from writing, I started the Momus News blog. Writing flash fiction is fun, but challenging. Honestly, I really struggled keeping things short, in contradiction to my fear of writing things long. Apparently, I had been writing so long, getting my thoughts to flow was easy, and I had a lot of thoughts. Still, could I write a novel? That might take years! No, not for me.
Being a Tortoise
Somewhere along the way I decided to count how many flash fiction and short stories I had written, just on this blog. It was over one thousand stories. Many of them were limited to 100 words, but a lot were longer. So I did the math and, whoa, I had written a good-sized novel worth of material. Like when starting to read novels, I found the story had become all, and the page count, meaningless.
Since I have finished a novel, I realize I have become like the tortoise in the Tortoise and Hare fable. Not necessarily slow mind you, but relentless in the pursuit of going forward. I don’t stop moving, no matter how often interrupted. I have a goal to write 1,000 words a day, but that’s difficult and not always possible to meet. Life has demands. There’s work to do, errands to run, chores to do. My daughter wants my attention and approval..and darn it, my only child deserves it. Fact is, I often don’t reach that 1,000 word goal every day, but I don’t beat myself up about it. Because some days I write 2,000 or 3,000 words. The most important thing I have learned is: word count is ultimately meaningless as long as you just keep writing.
The tortoise defeated the hare because he never stopped. He didn’t get there fast, he just never quit. So what if you reach a daily goal, or not. Try again the next day, and the next day after that, as long as it takes…until you finish the book. The key is never stopping. That’s the magic trick for writing a book.
Be the Tortoise.