Butterfly to a Snake
There’s things no one tells you about writing your first novel.
Forget technique or story or genre. Forget characters, plot, or moral. Forget whether you’re fifteen writing fanfic, in your twenties with that book that cries to be written, or older, greyer, cynicism a streak you can’t always replace with kindness.
Writing a whole novel, an honest over 70k full and complete manuscript, tears out your soul.
You start with an intent to finish, maybe you abandon it, you come back, keep plugging away, you work at it. Because you want it all there. You tell your friends and your family and the ones who don’t laugh or mock you become your rocks (and they stay your rocks, never forget those ones).
You climb along the branches of your own life to borrow experiences made up of leaves of emotion you chew and chew and chew. Each bite holds its own bitter sweetness or sweet bitterness. And you swallow every mouthful and spit it back out. Build until the book worm is fat, until it is full, until its not a worm but a caterpillar ready to utter the phrase THE END.
And you write those words… and a little, or a big, piece of you… dies.
But its not dead in a way that a caterpillar isn’t dead.
It turns to goo, to mush, to a few cells simmering in a fabricated pod made up of “this is a complete book.”
What do you do with that book? What goals did you have? What colours of the infinite rainbow of possibility did you imagine when you started out? What wings were you going to unfurl from that pod? What possible dreams lie in store for you?
I’m telling you now, that shouldn’t matter as much as what you’ve already done. You wrote a book.
The wet tendrils of multifaceted cells can unfurl. You wrote a book.
The pages are there, written, complete. You wrote a book.
You can leap off that branch and fly.
No one can take that book away from you, no one can say you didn’t finish. You saw your goal, you saw it through, and then you’re left with the tenuous question… what now?
You could query, or self pub, and all the research is needed for both but there begs a different question once it’s done.
Do you want to write another?
The posts that come after break my hear but they are there;
That’s it, this is the book I have in me. I’m done.
I can’t do this again, it hurts too much.
I don’t care what happens now, I did what I came here to do.
Nobody will ever want to read my book.
That last one tho…
I’ve seen talented writers who’s work I loved walk away for that reason alone. So hollowed by self doubt that when the chrysalis of their caterpillar’s cocoon split open there was nothing left inside. Just the shell. Just a book they’ll never give to anyone.
Because what writers who’ve weathered more than one book don’t tell you is that you aren’t a butterfly.
And you don’t know this until you’ve burst from that first shell that cocooned your story.
You’re a reptile. A lizard, a snake, a gecko. You shed your skin of one book, new and improved a better writer than before, and you do it again. You learn from it, and know that some scars of the book’s world still linger on your scales but you keep going, shedding, building. You grow bigger and braver, so much stronger than you’ll have ever realized.
This path is different for everyone, but the more you write, the more you improve, the more you show that you can hunt in the night, eat readers with delight, and sagely say to yourself that while you can doubt your writing, you don’t doubt that you are, in fact, a writer.