My COVID novel—probably chick lit (and not about COVID-19)—is a project I’ve been wrestling with since 2002. 2002 is misleading from an “amount of time spent writing” standpoint. I’ve probably put 5 to 7 part-time years into the draft I’m working on right now. The rest of the time, the project languished in storage, lost (but that’s another story).
During the fall of 2019, I tracked down the manuscript and began organizing a new draft. I was happily writing away last March when my community college district released me to do reference librarian work from home. This afforded me more time to write as I no longer needed to commute. I could no longer encounter distractions out in the world.
So when we first went into the stay-at-home debacle, I thought, “Great! Maybe now I’ll finish this thing.” I kept chipping away during the traumatic months of 2020. Over the summer, I received honest critique from three generous readers, though not without experiencing a good dose of inner drama over what was said. I worked through all of their notes, deciding which ones I should pay attention to, which ones I should chuck. My latest draft has a whole new structure, one I’m beginning to like. Needless to say, the manuscript has prevented me from being bored.
Just this month my storytelling inched its way to the apex of an important hump. In other words, it feels like I’ve finally gotten the story. What is left is myriad details, not to mention polishing and pulling a number of strands into a coherent whole. (I think I can. I think I can.) I’ve been passive-aggressive toward this project from day one—I’m still not sure I can nail it. Yet new optimism began to poke me last weekend when an important section fell into place.
This is not to say there isn’t plenty left to do. I suspect I won’t have a strong draft till fall. Still, a couple of weeks ago, I dreaded every writing session. I would force myself to sit down and write for two hours at a time. Period. While I can sometimes go into the zone and write for hours, I have to impose this sort of structure on the process when I feel such resistance rearing its ugly head. Lo and behold, new chapters began to emerge until I moved through what had been scaring me. This is not to say I’m not scared.
These days I can’t wait to get my hands on the manuscript. I feel the urge to tinker—and tinker some more. I’m certain I’ll enjoy moving this story into its final draft. I will cheer out loud when my pile of chapters morphs into such an entity. This project has become the albatross that almost went into the bin. Now I expect to print out a clean copy by the end of 2021. I expect to get on with the business of selling the darn thing.