While I take a couple of weeks off, please welcome the guest bloggers who’ve so generously offered to take over blogging duties and share their stories. Today’s post is by Mahesh Raj Mohan, one of the first writers I connected with on Twitter just a year and a half ago, but whom I feel I’ve known much longer. Here he shares the story of his decade-long commitment to his novel, and why he’s more determined than ever to keep going and finish it.
Many of us have labored over Works in Progress (WIPs) for months, or even years. I’ve been working on a novel for more than 10 years. And, get this, I’m still on Chapter One!
Okay, it’s my second novel. I wrote my first novel during summer breaks and in one white-hot writing session that lasted six weeks. While the edits wound down on that first book, I decided to tackle a much more ambitious project. I wrote the first one quickly, so I thought the second book would go the same way.
My current novel is a galaxy-spanning space opera that combines feminism, multiple world mythologies, economic class disparities, and huge space battles (of course). I want this novel to be my statement about humanity and our place in the universe. Might as well aim high,
I started outlining the story in 1999 and the creativity began to really spark during summer 2000.
And then…I stalled. This was partially due to “life” happening. Specifically, I spilled water on my laptop. I wrote in a hot streak for a few days when I got it back from the repair shop. And then I stalled again.
It wasn’t long before I soon realized I had a big problem. I wasn’t sure how to begin the novel.
So I wrote a 60-page prologue. Within the science fiction or fantasy genre, this isn’t unheard of; Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series routinely have prologues that long. That’s how I rationalized it.
Most of my beta readers loved the prologue – except one. In fact, he didn’t even finish the prologue. So I decided to start over. Again.
As I wrote and re-wrote, I occasionally received flashes of insight and decided I knew exactly how to fix the novel (read: new ways to begin it). I can only describe these “inspired” flashes by a scene in Adaptation where Nicholas Cage dictates what he believes is his breakthrough in his novel. When he listens to the tape the next day, he realizes his notes are absolute garbage. Yup. Same thing happened to me. Lots of times.
Life went on. I moved with my fiancée to Portland, Oregon. I got a day job, bought a house, and then quit my job to become a freelance writer. I filled multiple document files and two Moleskine notebooks with fragments and free-writing. My “Notes” file expanded to several hundred pages.
And yet I still had no clear beginning.
Well, I don’t give up easily. I created the ultimate plan.
1. Picking a time. I’ve chosen a time of day devoted only to creative writing. I close my Firefox browser, put away my Blackberry, open the document file, and get to work.
2. Staying inspired. I do my best to remember what excites me about my favorite books or scenes. Then I use the inspiration as fuel to write my own.
3. Accepting change. Life can be difficult on the creative process. There are false starts and stops all the time. Interruptions. Catastrophes. Setbacks. It’s a cliché, but by accepting what I can’t control, it makes me focus on what I can fix.
The ultimate plan started this week. And I’m pleased to say that after many years, I’ve committed to a beginning point, and have a clear direction.
I’ve finally started my novel.
Check out my blog, and I’ll let you know how it goes.
Now it’s your turn.
Have you begun to work on your magnum opus? How long have you worked on it?
Mahesh Raj Mohan and his wife Sara live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. You can follow him on Twitter (@maheshrmohan).