The Dream of Writing a Novel

One of the challenges in Jeff Goins’ series “15 Habits of Great Writers” called for its participants to start a project they’re scared to do. It could be a book, a magazine article or something else.

A couple of months ago, I had a chat with one of my best friends from college who now works in the academe. We talked about the good old days and how our lives turned out very differently from how we imagined it back then. She told me, though, that she’s happy I finally started writing full-time. She said she remembers I have always dreamed of writing a novel and she expects to read one of my books soon.

She’s right. It has always been my dream to write a novel. I’m not really afraid to start one. In my hard drive, I have a folder filed with premises, possible plot points, character sketches and descriptions of worlds I built. The material is enough for three or four books.

But I have never completed any book I have planned yet. The furthest I’ve gone is three chapters on one book. It’s been years since I last touched that project and I don’t know if I will ever finish it. The truth is I’m too scared of actually completing it.

The problem with me is I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing for myself.

Reading is one of my keenest pleasures. When I find a really good book, I tend to get lost in its world. I become the character in the book and their story becomes my own.

I want whoever reads my novel to become as immersed in what I have written as I usually am when I read a great story. I’m far too concerned with how people will think of my writing, and I don’t want people to find my work to be dull, incoherent or unoriginal.

Thus, I am unbearable perfectionist when it comes to writing for myself. I’d get so hung up on the way a paragraph is written that I’d rewrite it until I’m satisfied. One of my biggest fault is I’m not a write-first-edit-later kind of writer. I backtrack a lot and I can’t seem to help myself.

So it takes me more time to write a simple blog post, let alone a longer piece. I’d get frustrated with the entire writing process and take a break from it, with the intention of taking it up again when I’m not so frustrated anymore. I figured I have the luxury of dropping a personal writing project whenever I feel like it. After all, it’s for myself and not for a client. I am not on a deadline.

Except I really am on a deadline.

One never truly realizes the folly of one’s actions until one finally knows better. Of course I am on a deadline. We’re all on a deadline. And what’s the use of having a bunch of digital notes sitting in a digital folder when they will never see the light of day as a complete book?

Writing is its own reward. When you write for yourself, you should do it for the sheer pleasure of stringing words together to form a coherent whole. It doesn’t matter what other people think of your writing. You can’t please everyone, anyhow, so you might as well please yourself.

I’ve always dreamed of writing a novel. Embracing the dream is definitely risky, but I guess it’s time that I get on with it and finish one.

What do you dream of writing? Have you finished it already? If not, what’s keeping you from completing it?


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Anna Sibal-Gonzaga is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She likes reading books and watching movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, fantasy and historical genres. She is also a casual gamer and an all-around nerd.

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