Yup, I’m writing a novel.
There, I put it out there.
I said it out loud. Well, I said it on the Internet, which is the modern-day equivalent of having it be the front page, bold-faced headline on The New York Times, The Guardian, and possibly, The National Enquirer. The fact is, I’m setting goals. In the past, I’ve followed this Instagram philosophy:
Set some goals.
Stay quiet about them.
Smash the shit out of them.
Clap for your damn self.
My philosophy has shifted a bit. I’m all about setting goals, smashing the shit of out of them and clapping for my damn self. However, I can’t stay quiet this time. I need to be held accountable. Recently I read that people who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them than the ones who didn’t. Telling a friend increases this rate to 78%. Of course, I read this on Facebook, so the veracity of these statistics is up for debate. Still, it sounds pretty authoritative, so I’m going to go with it. I’ve written down my goal, signed it and dated it. 42% ahead of the game. Now, I’m telling you and we’re up to 78% — just like that.
Paul Coelho said that “When you want something, all of the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” Well, I want something. I want to write a novel. I want to write and publish a grown-up novel full of vibrant characters who are steeped in relatability and enmeshed in situations that make my readers say, “There but for the grace of God. . .”.
When readers pick up my novel, it’s because they’re hungry to read. When they move past the prologue and into the meat of the story, they’ve stayed because they’ve liked what they’ve tasted. They keep taking bites, steadily moving through the pages like a fork breaking off chunks of their favorite dish. When they get to the end of my novel, their eyes will linger on the last word before slowly closing the cover. Their fingers will drum across the hard back of the jacket as they recall the experience they have had of growing and changing with my characters.
At the end of my novel, my readers will feel satiated, that having spent time reading my words was the best time they have spent in a long time. They will feel transported and engaged, reflecting on the moments that took their breath away, the moments that had them pursing their lips in disgust at the choice a character has made knowing that it’s the wrong choice. They will look back at sections with fondness, others with incredulity. When it’s all over, readers will feel like they’ve eaten the most succulent, most decadent version of their favorite meal. Those initial bites will have become full on elbows-on-the-table-fork-biting-knife-scraping-sopping-up-the-gravy-with-a-biscuit-open-mouth-chewing-y’all-got-any-more- inhalations of literary goodness. They will continue to roll around my words and scenes in their brain, the way they would run their tongue over their teeth, re-visiting the flavors and nuances they can’t get enough of.
In one of the myriad of writing classes I took throughout my educational career, one of my professors said that the end of a good poem, story, piece of writing was akin to the lid of a box being snapped shut. When you come to the end, there should be the “click” of completion; the piece will have come to its rightful stopping place. As their eyes race from the top of the last page to the final punctuation mark, my readers will hear that firm click. They will lift their eyes from the page, wondering, “How was this exactly what I needed and I didn’t even know it?” They will be full and yet hungry for more.
I want my novel to interrupt the daily routines of those who read it. Responsibilities should be neglected — provided that no one gets seriously injured. Breakfasts, lunches and dinner become cereal. Text messages get ignored. Gym workouts are downgraded to machines that allow you to read while you move. Instagram feeds go unattended, unless they’re snapping artfully crafted pictorials of the book cover perched beside venti non-fat caramel mocha lattes, no whip. They will cancel plans to keep reading and be low-key thrilled when plans are cancelled on them. My novel will have my reader staying up late, “Just one more chapter,” falling from their lips as their eyelids sink shut and their heads bob down to their chests. My novel will be carried with my readers the way they carry their personal effects. When they leave the house, it will be book, keys, wallet, phone. They will read at every chance they get — in carpool lines, in waiting rooms, while pumping gas, in line at Chipotle, during the commercial breaks on TGIT. They’ll read my novel instead watching TGIT. Sorry, Shonda.
I want for my writing to grab you by the collar, toss you onto the page and bury you between the words. You will become emotionally invested in the well-being of the characters. You will root for them to overcome their obstacles. You will discourage them from going down the familiar road in favor of the one less traveled, the one that will force them to grow and change. You will hold your breath as they reach for their goal, fingers grazing it before they either take hold or fall short of the mark. You will look around you only to discover that your familiar surroundings have been replaced with a setting of my creation. By the end of my novel, you will have traveled so far that when the last line, the last word has been read you won’t know what to do next.
Am I setting some high bars for myself? Yup. Whenever I decide to take on any project or challenge, from photography to food to fitness, I’ve got a plan, though.
Instead of waking up at 5am to work out, I’m waking up at 5am to write. The alarm goes off and I head for my office. For an hour, I am committed to any endeavor that is related to my writing. I’m reading books on writing, plot, structure, and character development. I’m taking notes on what novels I consistently come back to and for what reasons. I’m pulling out all of the false starts I’ve ever had from boxes that have been pushed to the far reaches of the attic corners. There are reams of paper, filled with dot matrix printing of yarns that I spun from 1991 through early 2000. There are 3.5 inch floppy disks that I have no way of accessing without calling in The Geek Squad. And as I list off this trove of early ’90s writing relics, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the Little Mermaids song was floating around in my head — look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?
So much paper. So many words. So many ideas. Some of it is such drivel that needs to be redacted, reducing the page to a zebra hide with only the words “the”, “but”, and “okay” visible. Some of it is quality work that makes me wonder how in the world I came up with a particular story line when I find myself banging my head on the wall looking for another word for “nice”.
I love writing. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction. Nothing gives me a deeper sense of fulfillment and achievement than when I put pen to paper and the words come fast and furiously. When the ideas are bubbling, I have to drop everything and go. The words fight for position, spilling out of the pen and onto the page. My hand slides and glides across the lines, left to right. I fall into the rhythm of the motion, almost hypnotized by the repetition of the pen sluicing across the page. When I sit down to write, I’m just filling pages with ideas, notations, names of places and people who may or may not make the cut down the line. I’m flip through books of writing exercises as I stretch the muscles that are going to do some heavy lifting for the foreseeable future. Like I said, I’m setting some high bars, so I need to limber up in order to clear them.
As I craft sentences, stacking them like bricks to create paragraphs which in turn will create chapters, I’m envisioning my novel finding a home in the prime real-estate section of booksellers everywhere: New Releases and Best Sellers.
They say that if you want to achieve something, you have to put it out there to the Universe. You have to speak it into existence. You have to claim it.
This is me claiming it.
Let’s be goal diggers!
What goal are you going to write down and then share with a friend?
Tell me about it in the comments!