Writing a novel: why, how, and what now

I’ve always wanted to be a novelist. Just before my thirtieth birthday, I had a frightening realization: I could be one of those people who never did what they wanted to do! If I didn’t start, the story that was in my head wouldn’t get written. I’d just keep working for my whole life and feeling like I could be someone, a storyteller, a writer, but never really trying. Hating myself. I did a little speech at my thirtieth birthday party, and vowed to get myself out of the cycle of crucifying myself for not writing, which only lead to more..not writing. You know?

I really hated the idea of simply writing, regularly, the annoying way all of the books told me to. But then I read Jane Anne Staw’s book “Unstuck” and it helped me realize how petrified I’d become. I started meeting with her monthly in a beautiful backyard garden. And I started the novel.

“Richland” is the result of hundreds of bits of time I stole on my way home from work. Routine: A train ride with music. Then a cafe. God bless cafes. Sit down. Avoid opening the giant Word doc that was the manuscript. Get another drink. Stare at people. More music. Eventually, I’d start writing. I was a person with people in my head. Something about them would be written. A paragraph. A page. I’d leave feeling like a million bucks.

A thousand (okay maybe six) fucking years later, I finished! It’s big, and it’s done. I had it edited. (God bless Joanna Yas, whose quarterly journal Open City blows my mind.) Had a baby. Kept working. Then wrote a query letter to agents. I sent a couple of letters out. One rejection–it was awesome! I was so excited anyone responded at all. One positive response. But then I freaked the fuck out, moved, and didn’t pick up the manuscript for a year. It felt like a soggy ten-thousand page brick in the truck of my car. And that’s the truth, sisters and brothers. 

I’ve just realized, reluctantly, as I always do, that I can’t avoid learning the next big thing. I wrote the novel, and that is significant. Yay Margot, you crazy fucking dog. Parts of it may even be really good. But it could be better. Editing–and I swear to God I can’t count the number of times I’ve already edited–but more specifically, editing with love, enjoying it, is my next step. And also: letting go.

So I’ll be “editing with love” (barf – I mean Yay!) and thinking about what to do with this 365 page behemoth, you know, given the death of print. But what I’ve got is a story, and I think it’s gotta be decent enough to put out there for the four of you random readers. Right? Right.

Thanks, mates.

What resonates?