Sunday, August 28, 2011

When do Dreams Stop Being Dreams?

I have a vivid memory. A year or so ago, Gretchen McNeil, YA Rebel extraordinaire, tweeted something along the lines of "FINISHED MY FIRST DRAFT OF BANISH! SO EXCITED!" (I searched but couldn't find the exact wording, though I'm confident it involved something about celebratory champagne!) Being a Rebel fan and aspiring writer who had written absolutely nothing, I was filled with a sense of hope and awe. That would be me one day. I watched my twitter stream erupt with congratulations, surely throwing in one myself. Banish, now retitled POSSESS, came out a few days ago. Surely there's great poeticism (or romanticism) that this novel was published in the same week that I finished the first draft of my first novel. 

It started with an outline last summer. Brain crack. It blossomed into the month of terrific terror known as NaNoWriMo. On December 1st, 50,000 words in, my novel was far from done. The next few months consisted of hardcore reading and procrastinating. When June rolled around, I swore to myself that I would finish that freakin' book. And I wrote, and I plotted, then I kept writing. My daily word counts were low, nowhere near the November days of 1,667. When August rolled around, I forced myself to kick it into high gear. It was like falling in love with writing all over again. 

It was the magical combination of writing the LONG-awaited climax of the story and the rush of throwing myself so deeply into a world that I had built in a dreamscape. In the most phenomenal way, I got lost in the fantasy. I would be at work, or in my friends basement, or getting ice cream and all the while be having conversations with fictional people in my mind. It was freakin' incredible. The story bubbled inside of me, dying to spill out onto the page. 

And then I finished. Late at night, curled up in my bed, I wrote the final words of the novel. As I read the last sentence over and over again, I waited for the immense jubilation. I awaited the high-pitch squeeing and totally embarrassing happy dancing that occurred at the end of NaNoWriMo. I tried, but it didn't come. I was excited only because I knew that I should be excited. In fact, I was terrified, completely in shock. I'm still not sure why I felt the way I did, but there was no tweeting in all caps. Why was I not responding like Gretchen? Why was I not running to get champagne...I mean...err...sparkling apple juice?!

It was only the next morning that I realized the question gnawing at me. What next? My dream of writing a novel was complete. Or was it? I knew I wanted to make lots of edits. There were parts I wanted to add or stretch out. I knew that there would be more. But what is it all for? Should I start querying agents? Even now the thought makes my stomach flip. 

This morning I gave the bulky 80,000 word manuscript to a very close friend who offered to beta-read and "edit the hell out of it." I can't wait for her notes, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. I didn't realizer how much this "book" was a part of me. It felt like I handed her a bit of my soul in the form of a shitty first draft. I had never expected this feeling, and, to be honest, it's pretty exhilarating. 

Of course I'm excited. In fact, at this point, I'm beyond thrilled. I'm obviously overjoyed at the fact that I have a finished first draft. But what really blows my mind, what I'm really ecstatic about, is the realization that I don't want it to be over. I don't want it to end! Just as I wrote the last sentence, I had a craving to write more. I can't wait to throw myself back into the story! My dream isn't over, and I don't think it ever will be. Will this story ever be published? Where will this story be a year from today? Where will I be a year from today? I have no idea.

What I do know is that I'm addicted to writing. I am completely in love with it. I'm also eternally grateful to all of those who inspired me along the way: Gretchen McNeil, Leah Clifford, all of the Rebels (past, present, and future), Robyn Schneider, every author on my book shelf. And, of course, my wonderful friends (especially Emily, who has just informed me that she's already half-way through the manuscript) and family for being supportive. Thank you to the writing community for always supporting a delusional kid with a dream. Cheers to hoping that we never stop dreaming *clinks imaginary champagne glass...I mean sparkling apple juice...right...sparkling apple juice glass*


  1. Congratulations!!!! So proud of you!

  2. Thank you Gretchen!!! That means so much!!!

  3. Good to see you're still writing, Matt. I fell out of touch with all of the people I met during last year's NaNo. Thanks to their restoration of the website, I'm tripping over old buddies.

    Your personal account reminds me of the first time I finished a story post-High School. I wasn't happy or jumping around the room. If I had to choose one word to describe the sensation, it was relief. Finally, the characters had been exorcised and were on paper and I no longer had to toil under the pressure of getting them there.