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I’ve been having some (who am I kidding — ridiculous amounts of) trouble writing the final few chapters of this novel. At first, it was easy to blame summer and the pattern I have of never getting any meaningful writing accomplished, say, post-May until at-least-September-but-more-likely-October. But that was last summer.

That’s right. Basically zip in an entire year. And not for lack of trying. Really.

I know the advice: write anyway, no matter how hard it is, even if it’s garbage, every day. Bring yourself to the work if you expect the work to materialize. Believe me, I’ve given that a go. It hasn’t just been a year of browsing Tumblr for amusing puppy gifs and twiddling my thumbs. I’ve written and half-written and deleted the next scene so many times I’ve lost count, then given up and tried to break through whatever this is by writing something else instead. No dice of any kind. (I mean, yes, success at writing other things. But that has not, alas, transitioned into a successful push through the tough spot in the novel.)

And now I’ve just spent another evening hacking away at nothing I want to keep. Nothing that leads the story forward. As I was saving the paltry five words of alteration I made today in anticipation of closing the document, asking myself for the billionth time why it’s turning out to be so hard to just freaking write down what happens next, I realized it’s because I can’t see it to describe it and I’ve been trying to make the scene instead (the results of that all too apparent). Which in turn made me realize something else painfully obvious that I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize a long time ago: I’m apparently one of those writers. I can’t feel like I’m crafting. I have to feel like I’m describing things that I actually watched happen.

What to do when the scene won’t play, and all attempts to build it (like an actual damn storyteller and not a lazy special snowflake artist) meet with internal resistance because my subconscious thinks that’s not its job? That would appear to be the question.

A reflection on 40K

I believe it was some time in the spring of 2009 that I began seriously considering the reality that I had written a good book based on a trilogy of bad books, and that something would have to be done about this if I wanted my future fiction empire to have any kind of foundation.

I was at that time just finishing up a long piece of fanfiction that was the first thing I had managed to write since concluding the principle writing on Faríel in 2004. I had been learning things from fanfiction and from editing other people’s work that no college course had ever taught me about what other people like — and expect — to read. It felt good to be constructing phrases and plots again, and coming within shouting distance of the end of that long fic had given me the confidence to believe that I still had it in me. Not just to write, but to write better. I was able to convince myself that I could rewrite my first novel, that I should rewrite it, that it would be great this time and furthermore I would breeze right through it because I knew the world and the characters and the plot so well.

At about… 2 a.m. on September 19th, 2011 (give or take an hour ago), I finally managed to crack 40K on this beast. A whole forty thousand words, two and a half years later, of what was supposed to be an easy, fun rewrite. This is a bigger deal than it should be.

Somewhere along the way, things went pretty screwy.

Maybe it was the fact that I peddled Faríel for three years without a single bite. Maybe it was depression, adulthood, overexposure to bad fanfiction, stored-up childhood insecurities, or sheer mental exhaustion; but somehow, somewhere, I lost my confidence in my words. The thought of writing instantly brings with it these days a sort of clenching in my chest, a greyness in my thoughts as I try to map out what I will write and am met by the unrelenting internal response: but I have nothing to say.

I never used to believe this. I can still remember the days — not so distant, surely — when you couldn’t stop me from writing. If I was going to be the passenger in a car for more than five minutes, I brought pen and paper. If I was supposed to be taking notes in class, I was actually writing about elves. Or trickster gods. Or warped fairy tales. Just not about the economic theories of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. or the failed military decisions of General Lee in Pennsylvania. I knew my work wasn’t great, but I always felt there was a yet unspoken in there. With all the writing I did, all the time, everywhere, whether there were other things I should be doing or not, there was no way I could avoid learning how to be not just publishable but famous. It’s great that I genuinely believed this. All children should have that kind of passion for something, that kind of self-confidence.

I lost it somewhere.

If I could just pinpoint the moment of initial decay, or find somewhere to point the finger, it might be easier to relearn to believe in myself. Problem is, I don’t know when it started or why. All I can do is try to stop, take a look at where I am now, and see that whatever else I might have been once, at this exact moment in time I am a woman who can string a damn fine sentence. Looking at the future raises the frightening spectre of doubting my ability to build a solid plot that other people would find interesting. Screw sixty thousand words from now, a hundred thousand. In my imagination, I’ve already failed at the story by then.

What matters is that right now, right now, I’ve got 40K I wouldn’t be ashamed to attach my name to, and I wrote them. I wrote them.