{She’s one of the first people I connected with via social media and one of the kindest. Since then, Natalia has continually impressed me with her talent, wit and her ability to draw people together. I was so honored when she agreed to write something for my lil’ blog on her journey as an author. Read what she’s learned in the process of writing her first book and how she’s using that knowledge to make her next book that much better.}

photo via pinterest. originally from here.

by guest blogger: Natalia Sylvester

The hardest thing is to keep starting over. Each book starts with a blank page. Each scene starts with a new idea. Each chapter starts with a new direction. When I finished book 1 and moved on to book 2, I thought this process would get a little easier. But experience can be a double-edged sword.

An Easy Start

I began writing my first novel a little over four years ago, back when I had just started freelancing full-time. Too naïve to realize how difficult the process was supposed to be, I wrote every day, letting the words just flow out of me. To be honest, writing that first draft was easy. I was so proud of it I even printed out a copy, took it to Kinko’s and had it bound for easier editing. I took a few weeks off to put some distance between me and the words, then dove back in for revisions.

This is where the work really started. The draft was terrible. It was clear I’d need a complete rewrite. Over the next three and a half years I rewrote the book probably three or four times. Out of the 90k words now in the final version, I think only two thousand are from the original draft.

I changed the book’s point of view, then changed its setting. I killed off characters, then brought them back to life. I created entirely new characters, only to realize that one of them was the true protagonist. The deeper I got into the process of writing this book, the more I realized I’d have to start over once again.

Let’s Do This Again, Shall We?

It sounds like a lot of work, but I realize now that all that rewriting was simply what it took to get to the book I wanted to write. Now that the book is in the hands of my agent, I’m focusing on writing a new one. After several weeks of research and outlining, I finally sat down in front of the first blank page about a month ago.

And guess what? I’d forgotten how hard it was.

Maybe I’d imagined that since I’d done this once before, this time around it’d be easier. But here’s the great paradox: sometimes knowledge and experience as a writer will help you, and sometimes it will hinder you. It’s your job to use the good stuff and lose the bad.

This time around, I didn’t have the same fearlessness I had with my first book. You know that fearlessness: it comes from not knowing what challenges lie ahead. Four years ago, I didn’t know how many drafts I’d end up writing, how many scenes my critique partners would suggest I cut out entirely, how many agents would end up rejecting it before saying yes. I surrendered myself completely to the unknown.

I also didn’t have an audience at the time. Twitter was just a startup only techies used and blogging was something I didn’t think I had time for. As I write this new book, I do so knowing that there are people I’ve never even met who are rooting for it—it’s encouraging but also daunting. It makes me fear that I might let them down.

Overcoming the Challenges of Knowing

One of the members of my writer’s group once said: You can’t unlearn what you know. And even if you could, would it be worth it?

Now, every day I go back to my new WIP, I push away the knowledge that scares me and hold on to the pieces that help. The things I learned about plot and character development from those countless rewrites far outweigh the fear of having to toss several thousand words in the trash.

The feedback I got from agents when I first started querying are tips I keep in mind as my new story slowly takes shape. And as distracting as Twitter and blogging can be, I wouldn’t know most of what I’ve learned about publishing if it wasn’t for this supportive community of writers we’ve built.

Writing my first book was a blissfully innocent experience. Writing my second book will be a much more informed process. It might not be as exciting or romantic, but it’ll be true and stimulating in its own way.

The book after that? Who knows. I’m starting to think that’s the whole point.

Bio: Natalia Sylvester is a fiction writer represented by Foundry Literary + Media. Her articles have appeared in publications such as Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Latina magazine. A proud English major, she studied creative writing at University of Miami. After graduating in 2006, she worked briefly as the managing editor of a start-up magazine before deciding to freelance full-time. Natalia has since worked with several editing clients on their novels, non-fiction book proposals, short stories and feature articles to help them improve their craft and move closer to publication. Visit her online at www.nataliasylvester.com.

2 Replies to “Never the Same Journey Twice: On Writing Books & Starting Over”

  1. I love this Natalia! (Having just finished Draft One of my first adult novel, I know exactly how imperfect they can be, too…. lots of work ahead). It is so fascinating to read about your writing/editing process. But this surprised me so much: “As I write this new book, I do so knowing that there are people I’ve never even met who are rooting for it—it’s encouraging but also daunting. It makes me fear that I might let them down.” I am rooting for you as a writer on your writing journey — knowing that you are doing the same for me, as one of the most supportive writers I’ve met — and no matter what you could never let this writer down!

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