11 Ways Writing a Novel Changed My Life

Written by Eric Vance Walton | December 12, 2013

The unfinished manuscript for my first novel, Alarm Clock Dawn, sat on the shelf for years at a time before I gained the confidence to begin a serious effort to complete it in late 2010. I was working a full time job and publishing smaller works of poetry, short stories, and children’s books. I was a poet at heart and the novel was a pet project of mine, a Herculean task that deep inside my soul I didn’t think I could ever accomplish.

The catalyst for the final push to finish the book was sparked by a single question from a friend at a party, “Have you finished that novel yet?” It wasn’t so much the question that kindled the fire within me but it was how it was phrased. The question was asked almost jokingly, in a way that made me think she didn’t think I would complete it either. I’ve since thanked her for asking me that question, because it made me take finishing the book more seriously.

So how has writing my first novel changed me?

  1. It’s taken my writing career to the next level. Novelists do get a certain amount of respect. It’s not a fallacy; I’ve found that both writers and non-writers now take me more seriously since finishing this first book. Although at times it feels like my dream of being a full time writer is materializing in slow motion, it is definitely coming true.

  2. I’m a better and more disciplined writer than I thought I was. The voice of self-doubt isn’t nearly as loud since finishing that first book. I’m now working on the sequel, Dream No More, and I know it will get finished. With this second book it’s become more of a formula to me: write for a certain number of hours, finish a certain amount of pages. NaNoWriMo offers an excellent template for us to follow. If you want to finish writing an average size novel in a month you must write an average of two thousand words per day. Granted, two thousand words per day aren’t feasible for most writers; but if you stretch the process out over six months and three hundred words per day, it could be accomplished by almost anyone with the desire to do so.

  3. Writing the first novel was more difficult than I ever imagined. I won’t sugar coat it; working on the manuscript those last few months was how I imagine boot camp to be, unadulterated psychological torture. The process of writing a novel truly stretches you past so many of your perceived limitations. For me, the beginning and the ending of the story were always clear, but I struggled with how to connect the two. I simply learned that it’s a necessity to plant yourself in that seat and get it done.

  4. Writer’s block can be conquered. Some days I had no idea what I would write about and didn’t feel like writing after working all day. What I learned is something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life: writer’s block doesn’t have to significantly delay a project.  After a while I learned that I had control over my creative mood and it could be easily sparked given the right environment. For me it’s like opening the channel, and once your brain is tuned-in with this channel of creativity the words just flow. Some of my best writing has been accomplished after I felt like I couldn’t write another word.

  5. The level of satisfaction is incredible. Alarm Clock Dawn took a total of eight years from concept to completion. Finishing this book was one of the best days of my entire life. My wife and I dropped everything the day I wrote the last word on that last page and we went out to celebrate. I wept. Seriously, I did, and I’m not usually a crier.

  6. I live much more in the moment now. The level of concentration and attention to detail required to write a novel has really changed my perception of the world and even the quality of my inner dialogue. I realized this while taken my beagle for a walk shortly after I finished the manuscript. Colors pop, smells seem stronger, sounds more melodious. My whole life experience is richer because I tend to keep my consciousness more “in the moment” and notice more of everything that is unfolding around me. I had been a regular meditator for nearly twenty years before finishing the book, and writing the novel only enhanced the benefits attained from meditating for all those years.

  7. I’m more humble. Finishing a novel is probably the closest thing to a birthing experience a male can have. I’m in awe of the fact that my mind created a whole world and all that gave it breath. I will be forever grateful that the circumstances in my life realigned to allow me to finish that first book. I’m also thankful for all of those people in my life who supported me and believed in me throughout the grueling process. I’m sure so many people grew weary of hearing about the story.

  8. I feel a stronger connection with and empathy for other writers. This is incredibly demanding work, especially as an amateur who has to work a full time job to pay the bills. To put the hours and dedication into something that isn’t ever guaranteed to be a success takes a lot of belief and faith. I now feel an unbreakable bond with those who have ever accomplished it, both past and present.

  9. The process of writing a novel is addicting. After finishing the book and realizing that I have the chops to do it I’m officially addicted. Completing and publishing a novel is like what I imagine the first hit of a potent drug would be. Throughout the writing process there are incredible emotional highs and, at times, devastating lows. The emotions experienced during the process of writing a novel mirror life really…it’s gritty, it isn’t always perfect, but it sure is real.

  10. Finishing a novel isn’t the end; it’s only the beginning of a new and incredibly exciting path…and much more work.  For the project to be successful you have to do book signings, appearances, and marketing of any and all kinds to get yourself out there any way you can. With social media, it’s not all that difficult to gain a following as a writer, but to translate these followers into sales still requires an incredible amount of energy and creativity.

  11. I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life. I still write poetry and essays, but I know that nothing will ever compare to writing a novel. My second book, Dream No More, is going to be much more layered and character driven, I can see I’ve grown but realize I still have much to learn.  Hemingway is quoted as saying, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”  Only one book into my career as a novelist I realize how much truth and wisdom drips from Hemingway’s words.

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Eric invites you to follow his unfolding story by “liking” his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects.