I wrote a book last week. By that I mean I finished the first draft of a novel-length work of fiction last Thursday. It is a strange feeling to have written just over 77,000 words from a world that I imagined up in my head.
I’ve been calling this story Henry and Lucy, or sometimes Hen and Lu, as I am prone to give nicknames to most things in my life. I’ve even attempted to convince my google home to let me call it “googs” (google refused this attempt by the way). It’s a story about falling in love and magic, which are my favorite kind of stories to read. That was the goal of writing this story, I wanted to create something I could escape inside of for a while.
I read a lot. I read a lot as a child, and then I took a break from the book world for a bit while the demands of college sucked some of the joy out of reading, and then over the last few years, I’ve returned to reading with fervor. I read about two books a week and that number has climbed a bit over the course of the pandemic. I read books that make me smarter and books that challenge me, but mostly I read books to escape for a little while.
This is maybe where I come clean. Hen & Lu isn’t the first piece of fiction I’ve ever finished. When I was in high school, in the summers between sophomore and junior years, I actually wrote a trilogy of novellas. Each was about 45,000 words (about the same length as the Great Gatsby, although with significantly less literary merit) and were actually written as Twilight fan fiction. Yes, the same strategy that brought you the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy also create my significantly more wholesome trilogy Blood Angel.
Unlike a lot of fan fiction, Blood Angel had little interest in Bella and the rest of the Cullens and instead focused on the story of Nicole, a human, and Grayson, a vampire, falling in love. Both of these characters were from my own imaginings and I just used Stephenie Meyer’s world as the setting and her characters appeared occasionally as guests to this world. I don’t think I ever finished writing the third book. School started back up again in the fall and Nicole and Grayson were forgotten.
Unfortunately, these masterpieces of my teenage years have been partially lost over the past decade. At one point they existed on a fan fiction website, but years later my sister found them causing me to promptly delete all records that they ever existed. I still have some chapters saved on my computer, but we’re missing some pretty large chunks.
I had started writing fiction again sporadically after college, and more consistently once the pandemic started and I needed a hobby that I could do alone and inside. I wrote about 30,000 words in two other pieces. The first I abandoned because it was an exploration of grief and honestly it was just too depressing to work on while the world was falling apart. The second was significantly more light-hearted and was going well, but the idea of Henry and Lucy wouldn’t leave me alone.
I don’t have a record of when I first thought up the idea for what would become H & L, but the first words I ever typed in the story were written on September 15th of this year. Somehow how I got from word one to word 77,000 in a little less than six weeks. I’m not quite sure how that happened. I’ve been working on the story I mentioned earlier about grief since 2016, and I’m not quite halfway through.
It’s taken me more time to read Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity that I’ve been sipping alongside my breakfast for the past few months than it has to have written an entire novel. I think got swept up in their story. Every time I sat down to write, I wanted to live in their world a little while longer. A world without pandemics or presidential elections. A world where if their problems got a little too overwhelming I could close the laptop or just press backspace.
I also took some advice from Big Magic and I wrote this book for the joy of it. I didn’t worry about whether it was good enough or if it would ever be published or if it was a waste of my time or if it was smart enough. I just wrote for the love of the story. I won’t lie, I’ve had daydreams, of course, of it sitting on store shelves with a beautifully designed cover. I’ve decided who I would dedicate it to if a publisher ever picked it up. I’m going to write draft two.
I’ve been surprised by the fondness I feel for this story. Although I haven’t actually re-read it in full yet, my memory of what I’ve written leads me to believe that Hen & Lu is objectively pretty terrible. The story is cliched and overdone. The characters lack depth. The world I’ve built isn’t clear or consistent. My writing is simplistic and lacking. It’s a hot mess. But I love it, most ardently.
Now I’m letting the story “rest” for a month or two before I start to edit it and I miss it desperately. I want to hang out with Henry and Lucy again. I hope they’re doing well.