Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

My journey of writing a novel

This morning when I woke up, the last thing I thought I would be writing about was the third draft of my novel. I tend to be quite reserved when it comes to discussing my current writing projects. For some reason, however, I felt a push inside of me today that said that things must change. I must change. Itís scary to talk about something that is still in progress. Itís like digging up a seed to see if itís sprouting. What if the seed has died? What if the seed only has a tiny sprout and needs more time? Those are the questions I ask myself, which keep me quiet about my writing projects. I couldnít get the first few sentences of this blog post out of my head until I wrote them down, so I decided to do so.

Me, My Heart, and I :: My journey of writing a novel

Yesterday, I completed the third draft of my first novel. I have reached a plateau on my trek up the mountain. I donít know how many more plateaus I will reach before arriving at the top, but I know that with each step I am closer. Looking back at my progress, I see where I started and where I am now. It fills me with joy to see that I made progress hiking up this hill. Itís not normal for me to embrace my progress because I usually focused on the top of the mountain, lamenting that I wasnít there yet.

What I have realized is that I have not only made progress by completing another draft of my novel, but I have made progress as a writer. Iím grateful to have learned so much more about myself and who I am as a writer. When I first wanted to become a writer, I focused more on short stories. I liked the intensity that I could achieve in just a few pages. I could dip my toe into someone elseís life, experience it, and then get out. With a novel, there is a stronger connection to the characters and the story.

When I wrote the first draft while doing NaNoWriMo, I enjoyed how things kept flowing to me. I could see scenes and hear dialog so clearly as if they were memories from my own life, which they werenít. It was so much fun to write so freely that the next year, I focused on the same novel by filling in some of the blanks that I skipped over in my first draft. My second draft was a mixing of the two versions as well as a shedding of some of the writing that I discovered was written more as research material than prose.

With this third draft, I invested my time and energy into sculpting the story. I wrote new pieces to insert, removed some of the excess pieces, tightened up my writing, and allowed ideas to flow to me. It was interesting how after editing a chapter, I would often wake up the next day with thoughts about what to edit, add, or even remove. The editing process became organic and not one that I could control.

I had never had this experience of allowing a story to live inside of me and to open myself up so much to my unconscious mind. Inspiration came to me in a multitude of ways. If I watched a movie, read a book, had a conversation with someone, or saw a quote on Facebook, an idea would spring forth and words quickly began flowing to me. It seemed like I was the receiver of the story and was to be ready to jot it all down.

Iím not claiming victory of course, but I needed to acknowledge this achievement in my writing life. I am really fortunate that so many people supported me during this time. It was a gift for me that my beloved truly believed in me and was eager to hear about my daily progress. Many of the other people who supported me donít even know the effect they had on me. Iím so grateful for the inspiration and encouragement I received thanks to their tweets, posts on Facebook, blog posts, articles, and books.

Some of the people I talk with expect me to want to push out this novel as quickly as possible. Itís difficult to explain that I donít want to run to the top of the mountain. I honestly want to enjoy the winding road up to the top and feel each of my steps as it lands on the trail. I see my novel as a sculpture that I must shape. I canít be hasty. I must give myself and my project the time to breathe and wait for it to tell me when itís ready. Time is not my enemy; time is my friend. The time I invest in my novel enriches not only the story but also my writing.

It feels good to share my thoughts on the same day that Iíll be sending this draft of my novel to my editor. Now, I can head back to the trail to continue my journey up this mountain. Regardless of the outcome of my writing projects, I remain committed to each one. Iím happy to continue putting one step in front of the other while fully embracing and appreciating the journey.

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