I’ll be the first to admit that I have trouble writing something that’s short. Believe me, I’ve tried and it’s a skill that I would love to have, but it’s never fit me as a writer. The last time I tried to make a short novel ranging around 90,000 words, I ended up creating one that was closer to 220,000 words. I’d taken every care and measure that there was to take, but the wild fancies of my imagination ended up overpowering me.
After completing that first novel of mine, I realized it was a natural thing for me to up
the scale on the projects that I worked on. Due to my background as a reader of primarily epic fantasy, I find myself falling into this trend every time I work on even a short story. But when I came to accept this undeniable aspect of my nature, there came a rather pressing question. Why was it that I wanted to write something that was short in the first place?
It struck me as odd how I’d so willingly chosen to limit myself and my potential work. Especially when I was so early into my hobby.
One would think that it is the youthful writers that have a tendency to be the most fiery, passionate, and reckless when it comes to their novels. And for the most of our tiny community, this proves to be the case. Not a single peer of mine that has ever spoken to me about writing has deliberately chosen to lower the scale of their work. They would always go on about the ideas and concepts that were bubbling up in their heads, and as a novice myself, I can’t blame them. There are times when I fantasize about being able to go back to the first time I tried writing a book. Not so much to actually finish my endeavor, but because I can recall how giddy it all made me.
I too was obsessed with dozens of ideas that my mind could never hope to keep track of. I wanted to make the next big thing when I first started, and I was many times more obsessed with originality back then than I am now. Which is natural.
Being introduced to writing is, quite literally, being brought to a whole new world of information. There are so many routes that one could take, so many options between genres to write, and so many stories that we want written from the get-go. But when I was still early in my passion, I’d decided to tone down the scale so that I could actually finish the next idea I set my eyes upon. By this point, while my friends flaunted about with their ideas and how they kept “mental” outlines, I had written a detailed outline of my work and had struggled to maintain a grounded view of it.
As a result, those friends of mine had long ago given up on their work. And I remain here today. Originally, I had meant to ascribe my success to this slightly more cynical view of my work that I had taken on. But as you can see by how the work ballooned to the point of reaching 220,000 words, that there was no doubt that I’d let my imagination get the upper-hand.
The sweet prospect of being able to add depth to my work was unavoidable. There were just too many ideas waiting to be written. And while I’m glad that my first draft is larger than those I’d seen from other authors, I would be kidding myself if I said it was all rosy.
While it brought a smile to my face to see that my work was growing, the stress
that came with writing intensified to the proportion that I had added length to my work. I had come into my project expecting to be finished in two months but I ended up getting sucked in for four months and a half. When I knew that the burden on my shoulders was, it only increased the stress that came with every sentence that I put down, it really made me doubt myself. Every writing session was one that, should mistakes happen, could lead to the whole plot imploding on itself. I was afraid. I was convinced that there was no way that I’d be able to tackle such a large project. A part of me that was filled with self-doubt was convinced that I should have stayed with my 90,000 words. Yet it only grows more confusing.
In a strange way, that doubt also served to inspire me at the same time!
While I knew
that my scope was growing far beyond what my mind would be able to process, deep down I knew that a 220,000 word book was just the length I’d longed for. While the writing sessions I participated in had no shortage of stress, while my inner-critic grew even more dubious of my ability, and my plot seemed about to explode, I didn’t want to have it any other way. One of the reasons that I continued on my novel was because I loved writing it the way that it was. I intrinsically knew that the story being told just had to be that length, and that limiting myself would have only proven a detriment to me.
But I’m not going to take the idealistic route and tell you to chase your dreams and everything will be fine. From an objective standpoint, my writing sessions proved to be a greater strain on my mind because of what I did. I had to ditch my outline and make up the latter half of the plot as I went along, and there was an entire story arc that I added. For all I know, I could have only been a rare exception.
Yet there is certainly a case to be made for ambition. A person working on something that they truly enjoy will undoubtedly produce a work that is of higher personal enjoyment to them, but at the same time, the price comes with doubling your workload to chase ideas that you might not feel ready to take head-on. I’ve done my greatest efforts to remain neutral with regard to ambition, and this post should only be a cautionary tale. As I’ve stated previously, we need to be aware of the limits of our skill if we want to grow in our craft. So I can only say one thing to those of you with big ideas. Yes, it’s possible to follow through with them, I’m an example myself. But don’t be like me and trick yourself into believing that chasing your dream won’t come at a price. It might just make the path that you tread narrower than you could have expected. But, hey, some men prefer to walk a narrow path that they enjoy versus a wide path that they’re indifferent to.
As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.