Why I Paid to Write My Own Book
Since I’ve been able to hold a pencil and form words on a page, I have loved writing. At first it was the feeling of writing on the white paper, even though the scribbles made no sense. Then it was making up stories, even though they didn’t make much more sense than my gibberish.
Since then I have written papers, poems, short stories, instructions, essays, articles, newsletters, website copy, marketing copy, a few blog series, a history book, a children’s book, and have even been a technical writer and editor. But one thing I have never finished (though I had started many times) was a novel. I could write a full book of instructions, but I couldn’t keep a character moving through a story longer than about 5000 words.
In the summer of 2019, the opportunity came to join a challenge where dozens of people would attempt to write a book in 100 days. I was keenly interested. It raised a lot of tough questions. Could I do it? Would having people checking up on me weekly, sometimes daily, give me more or less motivation? Would I crack? Was there the time in my busy schedule to write 1000 words per day? But most important was whether I would ever write one of the novels that I always knew were in me.
Once I read the details of the “100-Day Novel” project on The Write Practise website, I could see that they were confident that it I could do it. They also seemed capable of pulling someone like me through the hard parts. The process starts with many motivating factors, but to my surprise it was the shared struggle that kept me at it every day.
Once I got into the challenge and began posting my progress and trying to be encouraging to the others, I had my eyes open to how much of a struggle it is for just about everyone who is trying to write their first book. Life throws a lot of obstacles in the way of goals and dreams. And we set up unnecessary hurdles for ourselves.
One of the first things I learned was that I had more opportunity than most. More opportunity to carve out time. More opportunity to use tools and methods. I even had better access to technology and more formal training and experience behind me than several others who were struggling forward every day. If they could keep at it and keep up, so could I.
Then, as the deadline loomed, I learned more about my own reserves of energy. I pushed through some dead ends in my story as I neared the climax. Finally, in the home stretch, I learned about the rush that comes with crossing the finish line (my crazy goal of 100,000 words) and finding that I still had the energy to go the extra mile, completing the project at the 113,00 word mark!
Somewhere along the line a negative voice ask me why I was paying money for the privilege to write, and wouldn’t I get more value taking a class with a real teacher? My answer was an emphatic no. I’ve taken many writing courses in my life. One more wouldn’t change my level of ability to finish a big project. And having a coach pushing probably wouldn’t work, either.
To be clear, there is teaching and coaching involved in this program with The Write Practise. There are resources and daily emails and writing sessions. Everything helps. But for me, and for others I met in the challenge, the key is to have others running the race alongside you, overcoming the same challenges and obstacles, jumping the same hurdles.
Now it is time to go back to that first draft and take on the new challenge of the rewrite. It will be a new experience for me. But I don’t have to tackle it alone. There’s a version of The Write Practice 100-day program for the (sometimes) even harder challenge of turning the first draft into something people will want to read. Wasn’t it Hemmingway who said something like, “The first draft of anything is [crap]”?