If you’ve been following this blog for some time you know that a few weeks prior to a new release I like to write a long post about what it took to write it, how long, what inspired me, and what I learned by writing it.
I do so mainly because it’s fun, but also because people seem to enjoy reading about my process. So here’s this sort of foreword.
Once upon a time I met this girl.
Yeah, it’s actually true.
And we became friends. Kind of. For a brief period of time we used to talk a lot about all sorts of stuff, and, well, at one point she told me she had a secret. Just like that. She didn’t want to tell me what it was, she just said it was so terrible that I wouldn’t be able to understand.
That was like 5 years ago. For dumb high-school me that was quite an experience, mostly because it got me thinking (I don’t do that very often.) I wanted to know what her secret was, maybe just out of curiosity, but I also thought that to be the ultimate proof that she trusted me. But I didn’t insist either. I just thought that when the time was right, she’d tell me.
Actually, she never told me her secret.
So I wrote a novella, in Romanian, about a woman with a terrible secret. There’s more to it that just that, but I don’t want to bore you with the details. It didn’t take long to write it, mostly because, honestly, this whole terrible secret thing had a big power of obsession over me, and ultimately, while I was writing the damn story, I wanted to know what her secret was just so I could write it down.
I wanted to write the truth, not because it would have mattered to readers, but because it would have mattered to me. In fact, I never tried to publish this novella, I never submitted it to any contests, and more so, no one ever read it.
And I kind of forgot about it.
But it did change something in my writing: I found one of my most enduring themes: masks. Well, not real masks, but that thing that who we are, who we think we are, who others think we are, and who we want to be will never coincide – I think I actually wrote this line down, in The Writer if I’m not mistaken. We pretend to be someone else than who we really are.
That’s also when I came up with this line: “We’re all strong enough to endure someone else’s tragedy.” I used that one in The Writer as well, but I do tend to use it in a lot of my stuff, as some sort of signature. It’s just a simple line, but I kind of always find a place for it.
When I found out about NaNoWriMo in 2010 I didn’t know what I wanted to write. I had plenty of ideas, but I just couldn’t concentrate. Call it writer’s block or whatever you want to, but I just couldn’t write. Of course, now I’m pretty sure it had to do with the fact that I had never written in English before (well, fiction), but back then I was terrified.
And I never really experience writer’s block as a total block; I can write, just that all the words seem wrong.
After about a week of struggle I decided to translate this novella. Technically, it was cheating, but I just wanted to be able to have something at the end of NaNoWriMo.
Sometimes one of the best ways to beat writer’s block is just to type… just punch those keys, relax your mind. To those who have dealt with words for some time that’s music. And, slowly, you find more words.
So I wrote. And wrote, and you know, wrote more and more. I actually managed to write 50,000 words in 3 weeks. And, at the end of those weeks, I realized I had a completely different story. Yeah, there was still this terrible secret, and everyone pretended to be someone they were not, but the English version was much more complex.
But it was still crap. Like really crap.
As much as it hurts me to say this, but I wasn’t good enough to write a novel back then. I remember the fact that I did some research into writing a good kiss scene – actually I googled, “how to write a kiss scene.”
But I went ahead and edited it, because I wanted to self-publish it. Which I did, in January 2011.
The book was available for purchase for about 4-5 months, before I realized that it was really bad. During those months I sold 4 copies – 2 paperbacks and 2 e-books. I’m sure this is one of the worst debuts in the history of literature.
I received a 4 star review on Amazon from someone who hadn’t even read the book, just a short paragraph of it, and a 2 star review on Goodreads from someone who actually read 100 pages out of 160, but couldn’t make it to the finish line – hence the 2 stars.
I was devastated. All I wanted was to be a writer. I gave up on writing and decided that life’s not fair. I just didn’t want to admit that I just wasn’t good enough: a good enough writer, a good enough self-publisher, a good enough blogger.
But you know what was my biggest mistake? This novel wasn’t bad just because of the bad dialogue, the awful description, the (almost) nonexistent plotline, and all those philosophical mussing which I thought to be clever.
It was bad because all I did was write a story. There was no emotion there, nothing that belonged to me. Just before I took it down Amazon, I read it and realized that I had changed so many things that the story wasn’t mine anymore. It was a lie, a badly written one.
It was artificial.
After six or so months I decided that I would give writing one more try. And I decided to write my own stories, even if there was nothing “epic” or “glorious” about them.
When I began rewriting this new version of this novel I was very much in love. And that changed everything.
Why didn’t I finish rewriting it?
I don’t know. Everyone who read it thought it was good enough. I received overwhelming positive feedback from the Wattpad community. Maybe I was scared that I would fail again.
Well I was certain that I would fail again. Every book we write is a failure, so maybe I just wanted to fail better, you know? To fail as good as I was capable of… I’m sure that last sentence doesn’t make much sense.
So I put this novel aside and focused on other projects. I wrote a movie-script (well, it was more like a hour long TV drama episode), I wrote a few short stories, and I wrote the first draft of The Writer.
That’s basically it. Of course, there are a lot more things I could write about, like the fact that there’s a connection between Jazz and LTDC, that when I was 6 or 7 I wanted to go to the US and change my name to Chris Packlem and become the richest man in the world.
That both Chris Packlem and William Bower have something that belongs to me, certain traits that I have or wish I had.
This is the novel I plan on publishing at the end of March. It’s almost complete, and I’m spending a lot of time working on it (by the way, tomorrow you’ll be able to read a new chapter.) And I want to get this novel properly edited (which costs money), I want to buy some paperbacks, host giveaways, send review copies, even pay for ads.
Dunno, I just don’t want to fail again.
You can order advance copies (or other cool stuff) and help me pay for all that stuff here.