Does the Book You Are Writing
Match the Book You Wanted
I wrote a lot of half-books as a tween. What’s a half-book you ask? It’s a book I started, got to about chapter eight and then didn’t finish.
I could make lots of excuses for my tween self and why she didn’t finish those books. We moved a lot and notebooks got lost. Heck, the first “laptop” we ever owned (in quotes because it was massive and heavy) overheated and the disk my story was saved on literally melted. Gone.
I didn’t finish my first book until I was on maternity leave with my third child. She’s nine now. That book was The Fountain, which became my debut novel. I’m often asked why that was the book I finished, at a time in my life when I had so much going on. The answer for me was that I finally knew wanted I wanted to say to the world with my writing.
As for all those other half-books? Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to write them. I’ve always loved to write and could spend hours on end with a notebook or at my keyboard. But when those books were lost, it didn’t hurt that much. I let go of the characters like I was able to let go of friends every time we moved. My desire to write a book was still there, but it was vague. Someday I’d write again.
When I started The Fountain, I was toying with picking up my long-lost love of writing as a way to keep my brain challenged while I was home with my three kids. At that time in my life, I was contemplating the parent I’d become. I love my kids fiercely, and I wanted them to have everything they’ve ever wanted. And I wanted to hand it to them on a silver platter. But I knew in my heart this would make them spoiled brats and I didn’t want that. Kids need limits. Consequences.
My idea for The Fountain grew from these thoughts and I started asking myself – What if a well-meaning founder of a boarding school left a fountain that grants wishes for its students, that gave them everything they wanted, no matter the cost? What would the students wish for? How would it change their lives?
This simple theme of “be careful what you wish for” was enough to keep me writing,
even after I returned to my day job, spending my Saturdays writing in a coffee shop while my amazing husband took the kids to the Science Centre or the mall. It was enough to fuel me for two and half years, which is how long it took me to write it.
An idea you’re willing to pour your heart and soul into for months or years to bring it to life.
What you have to say about the world is the magic that sucks readers into your pages,
even if they can’t quite put their finger on why. And this can be true whether or not they agree with your message.
If you haven’t thought about this before, how can you know if the book you’re writing matches what you really want to say? It only takes a few minutes to step away from checking your grammar and chasing wordcount to see if your project’s heart and soul is still there.
To do this, you need to figure out what you wanted to say before you created your characters and before you’d decided what was going to happen to them.
Where were you when this project first crept into your thoughts?
Who were you with?
What was going on in your life at that time? What kept you up at night?
Now take a look at the pages you’ve written. Is the message you came up with on your pages? Or, have your characters and plot taken you away from the reason you sat down to write in the first place?
If the book you’re writing is on the path you want, great job!
But if it’s not quite there and your characters have lost their way, find a way to bring them back. Now, I don’t suggest adding in long speeches about your character’s views of the world, or hitting your reader over the head with your thoughts on politics or humanity. (Please don’t do this!)
Are their actions consistent with the point you’re trying to make?
Noticing whether the book you’re writing matches the dream book in your head is a simple exercise that is often overlooked in the writing and editing process but can have a big payoff.
Wherever you are in the writing process, confirming it now means the book you’ll hold in your hands when it’s done will match what you want to say about the world.
And believe me, there’s nothing readers want more than to hear what you have to say.