Writing Vita, Pt. 1

Can I just say that writing a whole book is super hard? Part of the reason writing Vita was extra hard was because I was also learning to write a novel by writing this novel, if that makes any sense. I was learning a ton about practical things like grammar and sentence structure, voice, and story structure. I was also learning that even when you want to get up every morning and write for an hour a day, it’s difficult to actually do it.

All that to say, Vita took me a solid six years to write (including many, many revisions). When I first started writing it, I was twenty-eight and in the middle of a year-long ministry school. I was burnt out. Sad. Depressed. I picked up my favorite childhood novel, Mara Daughter of the Nile, and read through it. I needed something from it, and it gave it to me. After all these years, that book still is precious to me. I had a thought after I read it: I could write something like that. I don’t have faith that I could write the next War and Peace or Brothers Karamazov, but I believed that I could write something like the next Mara. I could write something that delighted and refreshed. A simple story with some deep truths and beauty. I could do that.

With that thought, I started writing Vita.

I started with a feeling and an image. A girl telling her story. Something awful had happened. And then for the next six years I wondered around in the dark, feeling my way through the story until it finally came together. Many, many revisions ensued. Whole races were taken out. Characters changed names and ages and personalities. I realized what Tori (the protagonist) really wanted.The next time I begin a novel (this year), I’m going to start so differently. If I were to write Vita again, I would take that first image and feeling and develop it in my head until it was a whole story. I would plan a lot more. I would plot the chapters out. I would make a sentence that describes the protagonist’s character arc and a sentence that nails down the books’ general story arc.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t know any of that. I didn’t know what the arcs were. And that’s ok.

The next time I write a book, I’m going to figure that stuff out and write it down. But then, I’m also going to abandon them when the character and book want to do something else.

I think that’s what I’ve learned: plan, but then be willing to abandon your plan.

Isn’t this all of life? Planning and then being willing to abandon your plan? I love planning. I love planning so much that I find it very hard to abandon my plan when the time comes. But here’s the thing: It’s always for something better than you had planned.

Next post I’m going to share some of the details of Vita: vision boards and notebooks and all of that nerdy stuff. Stay tuned.