Writing a novel: why, how, and what now

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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.

About Post Author

Margot

I wrote my first novel "Richland" in cafés in San Francisco’s Mission District, after working during the day as a producer at design firms. I graduated with honors from U.C. Berkeley, with a degree in Political Science, and lived in San Francisco for more than 14 years. The siren song of the East Bay lured us after our son Alejandro was born. We're now adjusting to life in the weirdly idyllic neighborhood of Rockridge, Oakland.
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