I used to fantasize about publishing a novel while I was still a teenager. I’d hoped to be moderately successful. I had hoped I would have written something I could be proud of. To write a book would be to have something wonderful to call mine. It would mean I could share a slice of my own imagination with strangers that I would never meet.
I wanted to show the world that young adults very much have a voice and that the voice is filled with conviction. I wanted to write something that could change perspective and provoke thought. I wanted to be someone who could make a difference to this world so I might be remembered in some small way after my body had long gone. I had dreams of being the one-in-a-million girl who had managed to capture the essence of youth when she was supposed to be too young to bottle up the right words.
Of course, I also wanted some glow of child prodigy on my brow. Timing is everything, and even though it isn’t supposed to matter how long it takes as long as you get there, the one who gets there first makes the history. I wanted the prestige of doing something extraordinary. I wished for admiration and the comfort that I could achieve something above the normal.
Sadly, my chance at young fame has passed me by — through no fault but my own. I made excuses, frittered away time and put things off until later than I should have. I spent too long on back-story, on researching character names and symbolism and overthinking small details instead of simply getting on with it.
And then gradually, I would lose them all. The energy that is required to sustain an initial idea over thousands of words would sizzle out. I would lose the plot that had come to me first in a burst of inspiration. I would lose my setting that I had constructed with such color and sound. I would lose my characters whom I had conceived in my mind and incubated with their own desires until I was ready to give birth to them on the page in the form of alphabet. They slipped away, edged out by my real world and real problems until they had become something less than a shadow.
It’s a devastating thing, the death of a novel. It’s like the death of a whole world you might have made. You ache for it in a way you cannot ache for something tangible because to everyone around you, it was never even there. Your novel represents so much more than the people and the places and the prose – it was the chance to create something that was both yours and everybody else’s. It was a dream that was fragile and almost realized, if only you had realized it. You can’t quite grieve for it, because life goes on and there are worse things than losing an idea. But it haunts you at times: in the shower, just before you fall asleep, or that gap in conversation you have with a friend.
And when you try to explain to your friends how your novel has left you, they might tell you to go back to it or just to start over with something fresh. They say, “move on”. They don’t realize that your novel is like a tender wound that needs to scab before it peels off new skin. They don’t realize that even though it will heal and maybe you’ll one day go back to it with renewed perception and life experience, it’s sore now and it will scar later. Because your novel was your child and a part of you that suffocated in the night without sound and without your presence, and even though it’s a strange kind of loss, it’s a loss all the same.