And that's a good thing!
This past Sunday, I put the finishing touches on the novel I’ve been working on since January 2020. In the last two+ years, the book went through four substantial revisions, a year-long chapter-by-chapter workshop with my writing group, and one round of feedback from two first readers.
As soon as I finished editing the final page, I drove down the street, picked up a friend, and gave her a ride to her car, which she’d left downtown overnight. While we chatted, I told her I’d finished my book approximately ten minutes earlier. “You should be more excited!” she said, but I just shrugged.
It’s not that I wasn’t excited. It’s just that I’ve been here before. Finishing a draft is a huge accomplishment, sure, but there are still many opportunities for failure. (Been there, done that.) The next part is actually the hardest—it’s when I wait for my agent to tell me if he thinks he can actually sell my book. For the last two years, while writing and revising, I’ve been in control of the narrative. Suddenly, thanks to one little email, it’s out of my hands. So while I’m excited to reach this moment in my book’s journey, it feels a bit surreal, less like a finish line and more like a long pause.
Also surreal? The realization that, by the time you finish writing a book, you’re not the same person who started it. For example, the Chrissy who felt compelled to tell this particular story in January 2020 is not the same Chrissy I am today, in May 2022. My thoughts have evolved. My interests have changed. I’ve gone through some shit; we all have. I still care about the ideas my book explores, but writing it helped get them out of my system. For my next project, whatever it may be, I don’t want to rehash those stories; I want to discover something new.
I’m giving myself a gift: one whole summer to figure out what that “something” is. There’s no rush, and if I’m going to dedicate the next few years of my life to a single story, I need to make sure it’s the right one. (As much as I love reading a variety of things, it turns out I’m only interested in writing novels and newsletters. Nothing like raising the stakes!)
In the meantime, here’s a look back at the journey this book took, from the first 468 words to the end of the fifth draft. I documented most of the process in this newsletter, and seeing the time and thought and work I put into this project is heartening. It makes me proud of what I’ve accomplished and excited for whatever comes next.
January 2020: Outline in hand, I write the first 468 words.
March 2020: I hit an exciting milestone: 5,000 words!
April 2020: I realize just 422 words a day is all it takes to write a book.
August 2020: I finish my first draft, just in time for my birthday.
October 2020: I start my second draft with the help of a good book.
November 2020: Revision is hard, lol.
January 2021: I decide the ending is wrong and change it completely.
March 2021: I finish draft 2 and prepare myself for draft 3.
April 2021: I join a writing group that starts workshopping my book.
(Drafts 3 and 4 bleed together—at some point, it becomes 4.)
September 2021: I vow to finish draft 4 by the end of September.
October 2021: Oops, still working on draft 4.
December 2021: Draft 4 is finally done!
January 2022: I send my novel to my first readers—a huge step!
March 2022: Feedback arrives and I begin draft 5.
May 2022: I finish the book and send it to my agent!
Whether you’ve been reading this newsletter since the very beginning or signed up mid-story, thank you for being here! Writing a novel is a long and solitary activity, and the ability to share the process with such a kind and supportive community has been an incredible gift. 💛
It’s officially ice cream season, and by ice cream, I mean Boombalatti’s, which is the best ice cream shop in Wilmington and possibly the world. On this particular Sunday, I had a scoop of vegan birthday cake, and a scoop of vegan coffee cookies and cream. I am not vegan (I like cheese and eggs too much) but the non-dairy options at Boom’s are the best I’ve ever had, so I usually go that route when I visit. (The cookies and cream was my favorite of the two— highly recommended if you’re local or visiting!)
“This movement seeks to rule by hollow theocracy, despite our constitutional separation of church and state. The people behind this campaign do not represent the majority of this country, and they know it, so they consistently try to undermine the democratic process. They attack voting rights, gerrymander voting districts and shove unpopular legislation through so that they can live in a world of their choosing and hoard as much power and wealth as possible.”
I honestly don’t have the words to write about the leaked Supreme Court opinion and the horrific impacts such a decision would have on so many. (Ann Friedman’s recent newsletter said it perfectly, I think.) There will be so much work to do in the coming months, but in the meantime I’ve already set up a recurring donation to the Carolina Abortion Fund. Here’s a list of great pro-choice organizations if you feel moved to do the same.
We live in an age where facts don’t mean much, but still: this article has some good talking points for the next time you find yourself embroiled in yet another infuriating abortion debate.
Mad Men is my favorite show of all time (Peggy Olson is directly responsible for my career in marketing) and that is just one of the reasons this piece about Elisabeth Moss might be my favorite profile of all time. It’s got everything—an artist at the top of her game, a religious cult, and a bunch of my favorite television shows. Five stars!
Started by Jami Attenberg in 2018, this project is “a 15,000 strong community of writers of all levels who are all supporting each other to write 1000 words a day for two weeks.”
I successfully completed the #100wordsofsummer challenge in June 2020, and it helped me add over 15,000 words to the first draft of my novel. I’m planning to take part this year (it takes place June 4 through 17) and just sort of see what happens. If you need inspiration, Jami put together a short list of ways to make the most of your two-week writing spring here.
* NYT gift link—no subscription needed, and clicking won’t count toward your free articles!
Thanks to Katie O. for your support and friendship! No community is complete without you.
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