DRACONIAN has been the work of almost eight years, the driving force behind the majority of my writing journey thus far. Of course I’ve worked on other projects as well, including TIME IN A BOTTLE, which I went on to polish and pitch to agents and, ultimately, trunk. Since the idea first came to me, DRACONIAN has demanded to be told. In all its many iterations, it has spanned multiple computers (five) and homes (four). It began as a short story I wrote for literature class when I was twelve, became the 60K word rough draft I completed as a part of my schoolwork, survived my purple-prose-loving phase, and grew through my depression after receiving extremely negative feedback from a beta reader on one side and dozens of agent rejections on the other, before finally arriving at this stage, completed and ready for the query trenches. I can honestly say that as much as I hoped, and as much as I dreamed, I never quite expected to make it here.
I look at it, and I see the bones from the very first draft. I also see the years of desire and doubt that followed. It has seen me through the stages where I struggled to sleep at night because I wanted, wanted, wanted till I was sick to my stomach to hold that book, published, in my hands, to have the validation that would make people’s judgement less bitter, less painful, less justified. I can’t count the times I let myself see my manuscript through another’s eyes, to the point where I wanted to burn it and move on because I wasn’t big enough or smart enough. It waited patiently while I listened to others who said my dream wasn’t worth sacrificing for, while my guilt and anxiety got the best of me and made me forget that I’m a writer to my core.
When I decided to write a fresh rough draft of DRACONIAN during NaNoWriMo 2014, I expected to be finished by November 2015, because that was how things worked the year before. I can’t adequately express how sick I felt when November 2016 came and went and I still wasn’t done. I was stuck. I wanted to work on other projects. I was beyond tired. But I had to, had to, I say I had to finish.
Even after this November, even mere strides from the finish line compared to the legwork I had already completed, I was not sure I had it in me to sprint down the homestretch. But I knew I had to try regardless. Because if there’s anything running cross country has taught me, it’s that you always have more in you than you realize.
I've lost track of the amount of drafts I had to go through with this problem child—far more than I needed with TIME IN A BOTTLE. The vast majority of those drafts felt like hate drafts. I’ve lost track of the hours I spent filling in plot holes, wrestling awkward sentences, and crying over world-building, but I’m sure the 900 plus hours I spent on TIME IN A BOTTLE pale in comparison. Where TIB was a cakewalk, DRACONIAN was a marathon through Death Valley. The biggest redeeming quality of this experience is realizing that while it is possible to fall out of love with a novel, to see only its faults and none of its beauty, it is equally possible to fall back in love.
So yes, I am moving on the next stage—the query trenches. While I am excited and nervous to be here for round two, with more faith in myself and more understanding that I am not the sure bestseller I thought I was, and while the thought of getting published is both nerve-wracking and difficult to imagine, I am pleased. I am happy. Even if this book never gets an agent, never makes it to the shelves, I will still have this: Against all odds, I finished. I proved my doubts wrong. Regardless of where this book ends up—your home or my trunk—I will still have succeeded. And that, my coffee beans, is more than sufficient.
Last but not least, I need to wander into the realm of cheese and mushiness, because you all deserve a big thank you. Were it not for your support and encouragement, your excitement over my snippets and your faith in me, I wouldn’t have found the energy to finish this. I really hope I get to share DRACONIAN with you some day.
What about you, my little coffee beans? What are some writing successes of yours that you’d like to celebrate?