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What It’s Really Like to Write Your Own Novel

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been obsessed with reading and writing. From fiction to thriller, mysteries, and more recently horror, it’s been something I’ve loved to do for as long as I can remember. Naturally, as a young adult, it’s now a dream of mine to turn this hobby into a career. So, last June, I started writing my first ever novel.

This article is going to remain somewhat vague and obviously spoiler-free (can’t have y’all knowing what’s up!). But I love talking about my projects, and I love hearing other people talk about theirs on different authors’ YouTube channels and blogs, so I figured why the heck not.

I got the idea for my story while I was studying abroad in London during the fall semester of my second year of college. I’m not entirely sure what sparked it. It might have been a combination of the books I was reading for my classes and the generally moody atmosphere the London fog creates. It started out as a thriller with a basic premise: a girl goes missing, and her girlfriend needs to find out what happened. Then, the more I let the idea simmer around in my head for a bit (during which time I went on a substantial Stephen King and other contemporary horror binges), the scarier the story became. It wove itself into a strange tale of conspiracies, obsessions, urban legends, and naivety. Like Twin Peaks and The X-Files combined with some young queer angst in Maine. It was everything I wanted. I adored it.

Of course, I had enjoyed the pieces I’d written before, one of which is actually going to be published in an online literary journal called The Foundationalist by the start of 2020. A few short stories stuck out in my mind, but nothing has ever felt like the story for this novel before. No ideas of mine have ever been so wide in scope or so ambitious as this one. I’ve never written anything even remotely approaching the massive length this would require. It was terrifying. And I had never been so excited about one of my own projects in my life.

I’m an impatient writer, though. I outlined most of my plot around June of 2019 and got to work. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t meeting the word counts I had estimated for each chapter. In my excitement and haste, my mind was going too fast for my hands to catch up on the keyboard. The result was a too-vague description and pacing that could give you whiplash. This is a habit I still deal with. But hey, the first draft of any novel isn’t going to be great. And that’s what lead me to the hardest thing I’ve had to teach myself during this whole process.

I’ve set a rule for myself to not go back and edit things I’ve already written. As a perfectionist, it was tough to let go, but this book is set to be several tens of thousands of words long. If I keep going back to the start every time I think of something new I want to add that needs foreshadowing or editing or whatever, then I’ll never make forward progress. The first draft is meant for the writer to tell themselves the story and discover it for themselves along the way. The second draft and beyond is for making it reader-friendly, so it actually makes sense to anyone outside of the person who wrote it.

At this point, I’m only just approaching the halfway point on my first draft. I may be an inpatient writer, but I’m also in my last year of college, so that slows things down quite a bit. But someday, even if it’s years down the line, I would like to try and get this story out there somehow. I think it has potential. It just needs a lot of work and dedication at this point. The fact that I’m still this passionate about it months after beginning the process says a lot, though. And the horror genre seriously needs more wholesome lesbians!

Keep doing what you’re doing, and keep working. Let’s see each other through to the end, eh? Hit me up on Twitter if you want to see how things go with my book or other stories I’m working on.


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Ellie is a third-year English major with a minor in Cinema & Media Studies. When she is not busy cramming four years of college into three, one can usually find her binge-watching the latest Netflix obsession or reading novels of all genres. Someday she hopes to get a novel of her own out into the world.
Writers of the Boston University chapter of Her Campus.