Don't Fear the Expert

novelist discovers what needs to be overcome in the name of art

Tyler Griggs, illustrated by Holly Zimmerman

A writer is a very optimistic person. Thinking that they might write something they find worth reading, a publisher finds worth funding, a bookstore finds worth carrying, a patron finds worth purchasing, and a reader finds enjoyment in is a tall order.

When I was really young I wrote two “books.” They were each about five notebook pages long and had about a dozen staples on the left margin. They were picture books and I plumbed the depths of my Crayola crayon box to forge these works. One ordered and explained the solar system and the other told a short story about a witch that lived in an icy cave. Both were well-received.

By the time I was in seventh grade, I had written a seven notebook-long sci-fi/fantasy adventure story, complete with naval battles, ancient knights that popped out of special stones, and a one-armed ninja. It was ahead of its time.

I didn’t start writing long, continuous fiction again until November 2009 when I enrolled in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel-Writing Month. This online community with chapters all over the world asserted that the only thing standing between an aspiring author and their completed novel is a deadline. The challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. This means challengers must write at an average 1667 words per day (a number I know all too well). When I hit the 50k finish line, it turns out that all those words told only a fraction of the story. Hitting that goal was good enough for me for a while. The plot was bursting with surprises and twists to a point where I didn’t know where to go from there.

And then I stopped writing.

Oh! I could use a break for a couple of days, let the plot simmer for a while. What else was I going to do before inspiration comes knocking? First it was a week, then a few weeks, and then longer. Eventually I got curious and thought it was time to read the manuscript.