After another off tangent Twitter conversation the other day, another random blog post is born. Hooray! All in the name of having a bit of fun of course, here, in nine succinct (yeah, right) parallel points, is my analogical analysis on how writing a novel is akin to the dating game.
Before we start I should pre-warn readers: I have very little writing experience and even less conventional dating experience, so all in all this is a complete work of fiction. Anyway, without further ado, let us begin.
Step 1: First Meeting
Writing: A great idea for a story/novel enters your visionary realm. You pursue the idea by writing copious amounts of notes, outlines and character descriptions. You delve into research, finding out all you can about the subject until you know all you need to know ready to immerse yourself wholly into writing it.
Dating: A hot, nice guy/girl enters your visionary realm in the bar/club/at work/on the dating website etc etc…You pursue the object of your affections by trying to find out as much about them as is humanly possible. You delve into research, finding out all you can about the object of your affections. You chat to them at any opportunity; accidentally on purpose ‘bump’ into them at any plausible moments. You talk to their friends to find out what you can about them, (or look up their Facebook page/Twitter account), ready to immerse yourself wholly into asking them out or saying yes to them asking you out.
Step 2: The Beginning
Writing: You begin writing your novel. You throw yourself whole-heartedly into it. You live it, You breathe it, you can’t stop thinking about it or talking about it. You dream about it when you go to sleep and when you’re not working on it you miss it and can’t wait to get back to it. You throw yourself completely into nurturing it and exploring its many facets.
Dating: You begin dating hot, nice guy/girl. You throw yourself whole-heartedly into the new relationship. You live them, you breathe them. You can’t stop thinking about them/talking about them; boring your friends and family with stories and anecdotes about them. When you don’t see them, you can’t wait to get back to them and throw yourself into exploring them and nurturing all the facets of your relationship.
Step 3: The Honeymoon Period
Writing: You’re in love with your WIP. You’re so in love you can’t bear to be separated from it lest the ideas fall out of your head quicker than you can get them down. It’s going well. You even give it a title and it just feels right. You’re getting to know the characters and the words are flowing well. You haven’t hit the middle section wall yet, in fact you haven’t even thought about it because damn: This is the best thing you’ve ever written. How did you not write this before? It’s always been there, but you just didn’t see it and now it’s here in your life, and gosh it’s so wonderful! You’ll write forever, surrounded by birdsong cheeping through the open window and the sun drenching your desk with brightness whilst you drink copious amounts of real coffee to keep you going through the endless nights of writing. Nothing else matters. You see no-one. You care for nothing other than getting to the end of this first draft.
Dating: You’re in love with hot, nice guy/girl. So in love you cannot be separated lest the world might end if you are. It’s all going well. You label each other girlfriend/boyfriend and it feels so right. You’re at the staying up all night chatting part, getting to know each other and the conversations flow and are easy. You haven’t hit the monotony/everyday living part yet, in fact you haven’t even thought about it because damn: This is the best relationship you’ve ever been in. That part will never happen to you. The hot,nice guy/girl is the best thing since sliced bread. How did you not see them before? They’ve always been there, passing you in the photocopying room/canteen, you just didn’t see them. But now here they are in your life and gosh it’s so wonderful you want to write poetry about it. You are in no doubt you will be together forever, surrounded by ‘your song’ playing on a continuous loop, the sun shining even when it’s not. There’s a wide grin permanently slapped across your face whilst drinking copious amounts of coffee, any coffee to keep you awake as you don’t sleep at night any more…oh no. Nothing else matters. You see no one else. You care for nothing other than each other.
Step 4: A few months in…
Writing: You’ve hit the middle section and it’s all suddenly seeming a bit too much like hard work. The words aren’t coming as easily, life’s getting in the way a bit. You know you should be weeding the jungle, I mean garden, and cleaning the cesspit which your house has become. You’ve neglected your family for so long, you can’t recall what their names are and so, you know, you really should call them. The WIP is stagnant anyway. You need some time away from it. The characters won’t do what you want them to do. Time to phone friends and arrange to see them. You can moan about the stubbornness of your characters to them. They’ll understand right? Or perhaps just go out and forget about all that hassle for a night and get drunk, like you used to with them, before your novel came along and took over your life.
Dating: You’ve been seeing each other a few months now. He/she has a drawer and toothbrush at your place and vice versa. You’ve found out all the things you wanted to find out and you’ve hit a bit of a wall with conversation at times. Life has steam-rolled it’s way back. The endless late nights and days out on dates to places you’d never usually dare to venture are over because you were in danger of been sacked… or making yourself bankrupt. You’re still in love of course, only the constant cleaning of the house to impress, the daily shaving, the keeping your make up/ personal hygiene routine in tip top condition has worn you out. You want nothing more than to leave the odd plate lying around and to not worry you have a days worth of underarm stubble. Besides which, you just want your own space for a little while. You don’t want things to become really stagnant. You need some mystery back. Time to phone friends and arrange a night out. You can moan at them about his/her obsession with cross rally biking he/she failed to mention on his/her dating profile. Or perhaps you’ll just go out, forget all the niggly things about them and get drunk, like you used to with your friends, before hot,nice girl/guy came along and took over your life.
Step 5: Paranoia
Writing: You’ve finished the first draft, thank goodness because wow, did that drag out? Now comes the edits. You read back though what you’ve written and the paranoia starts to creep in. This is the biggest pile of poo you’ve ever written. Why didn’t someone stop you? You stop editing and read novels by other authors hoping you’ll return with fresh eyes, only for the paranoia at how absolutely awful your WIP is to return in comparison to the greatness you’ve just read. Yours will never be as good as theirs. Your plot has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese and you’ve used cliches like that one all the way through. You spend sporadic periods batting the paranoia away and plod on regardless. Sometimes you look at your WIP lovingly and remember why you started it it in the first place. Some parts aren’t so bad really. This is worth seeing through to the end, you think. You send it off to beta readers and the paranoia returns temporarily but soon, from their constructive advice, you find your feet once more and power surge forward to the final edit.
Dating: You’re settled in to each other now. You spend Friday and Saturday nights together and go to family functions together but in between he/she keeps going out with their friends and work colleagues without you on a regular basis. Paranoia starts to creep in. Why does their ex suddenly seem to be cropping up in conversation? In fact why does your ex keep cropping up in conversation? Oh no, you’re not living up to their exes standards. Damn, your new love isn’t quite living up to your exes standards. They do things which are just weird. Oh God, they’re probably comparing you to their ex. They might not like the way you eat your hair when you get nervous. Time to edit your own behaviour. Time to get the opinion of your trusted friends. What have I done? Is he/she really the one for me? You seek their opinions and trust them. You are being silly. You find your feet in the relationship once more and power surge forward into ‘going steady.’
Step 6: The Comfort Zone
Writing: Now you’re onto the final edit. You know your WIP inside out, upside down and back to front. Thanks to your beta readers, you know how to fix what’s wrong and you settle in to cosy night after night of simply enjoying immersing yourself in, making the best out of what you’ve written. Every time you open up your Word doc. it’s like slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers. You know where this is going and it feels good to have the stability of something familiar to surround yourself in. Hell, you may even get a publishing deal out of this one.
Dating: Now you’ve moved in together. You know each other inside out, upside down (oo er..) and back to front. Thanks to your friends telling you to shut up and stop seeing your ex in the rose tinted spectacles you made for yourself, you’ve accepted that you and your new love are good together and you settle in to cosy night after cosy night of M&S dinners and episodes of Master Chef together. Immersing yourself in the warmth of love which envelopes you. Every time you look at the guy/girl next to you, you feel a warm glow of smugness that there’s someone there you trust by your side. You know where this is going and it feels good to have the stability of someone familiar with you. Hell, this one you may even want to marry one day.
Step 7: The Rejection
Writing: So, you’ve finally mustered the courage to submit your synopsis (oh, the hell) and first three chapters off to various publishers. The MS was finished but something was missing. Readers; and the only way to get them is to publish the thing. You want to show your WIP off to the world, so you send off your baby for someone to judge its worth. You wait and you press on with life, pretending not to think about it. Getting on with life, getting on with writing the next thing. And then it happens. One day, two, maybe three months later, a letter plops through your letter box. You note your own handwriting on the SAE you sent with your submission and your heart lurches in excitement and drops in dread all at the same time. With nervous excitement, you tear open the envelope before staring at the folded letter for what seems like hours, knowing your whole future could depend on the words contained in that letter. You hurriedly unfold it and scan the first paragraph. Your heart sinks. Rejection. Not good enough. Not what we’re looking for. We’re sorry.
Dating: So, you’re there, ensconced in suburban, relationship bliss. But something’s missing. There’s no permanency yet. You think more about asking your love to marry you/have kids/get a pet, whatever. You love them and you desire nothing more than than to show them off to the world; show them you’re here for keeps and show them how much you love them. Finally, after months of fretting about it and preparing what you’ll say and how you’ll say it, you get round to posing the question. Your heart lurches in excitement and drops in dread at the same time. What if they say no? You know your entire future together hangs on their response. You drop to one knee only to glance up to a look of embarrassment. Your heart sinks. Rejection. Not good enough. It’s me not you. I’m sorry.
Step 8: The Grief Cycle
Writing: Initially there’s the shock. You just sit there, staring at the piece of paper, to be precise the words saying “not for us.” Then there’s denial: How could they reject that masterpiece? Surely not? I’ll just read through this again to make sure I didn’t mis-read what they wrote. Nope, definitely rejected. Slowly shock and denial turn to anger. Phillistines. I’ve read some of the stuff they’ve published and it’s utter tripe. How very DARE they reject mine. Seriously. What is wrong with them? Then there’s blame. This isn’t my fault. It’s not my sub-standard writing to blame, this is them. They just can’t see greatness when it’s staring in front of them. Well, it’s their loss (and we’re back to anger again). Then there’s the embarrassment and shame. How will you ever face your friends again after being rejected? Now all those times they laughed at your dreams of writing a best selling novel have been vilified. They were right, you were wrong. Depression kicks in. You don’t even want to think about your WIP again. In fact you’re never going to write again. You’re never going to be good enough so why even try? Eventually though, you dip your toe back in with your writer friends. You dissect every angle with them, struggling to find meaning behind what’s happened, you blog about it, you reach out. Finally you come to rational acceptance. You’ve reached out and others have helped you to put things into perspective: You start to explore different options and put a plan in motion. It’s time to move on.
Dating: Initially there’s the shock. You just sit there, staring at the walls, photos of your guy/girl or a blank TV screen.You cry. A lot. You turn the words of rejection over and over in your mind like a bad movie on replay, not quite able to believe that the words “it’s over” even came from their lips. That’s the denial. How could they reject me? All that we had together. I thought he/she loved me. They did love me. How can they just leave what we had? You try bargaining with yourself and with them: You text them, write to them, perhaps as all pride and stakes are gone, beg and plead with them to not leave you. It can’t be over. It just can’t. But we were going to spend Christmas together/go on holiday together. You’d just bought me that beautiful ring/watch. But to no avial. All your efforts are rejected. Slowly shock and denial turn to anger. Anger at yourself for being so trusting, anger at them for breaking the trust. How dare they reject me? There’s nothing wrong with me. The two timing ratbag. Well, it’s his/her loss (and we’re back to anger again). Then there’s the embarrassment and shame. How will you ever face your friends again after being dumped? Now all those times they said he/she was a good for nothing loser have been vilified. They were right, you were wrong. Depression kicks in. You don’t even want to think about another relationship ever again, yet you miss those cosy nights in front of Master Chef. But still, you’re never going to date again. Ever. You’re never going to be good enough for anyone. Who’d ever fancy you? So why even try? Eventually though, you dip your toe back in with your seeing your friends. You dissect every angle of where the relationship went wrong, struggling to find meaning behind what happened. Finally you come to some rational acceptance. You’ve reached out and others have helped you to put things into perspective: You start to explore different options, maybe a dating website, maybe speed dating and you put a plan in motion. It’s time to move on.
Step 9: The One
Writing: Repeat step seven until a publisher accepts your masterpiece and live happily ever after in author bliss… If too many rejections at step seven crop up, repeat all steps until the one publisher comes along who finally appreciates you for the artist you always knew yourself to be.
Dating: Unlike with writing, do not repeat step seven solely as this is known as desperation or flogging a dead horse. Instead go straight back to step one and repeat through to step three only, because at that point the path forward will look different to the others highlighted here as finally the one comes along who appreciates you for the wonderful human you always knew yourself to be and live happily ever after in married bliss.
If you’re a writer: keep on; it will happen. (she says..)
If you’re dating: keep on; it will happen. (she says…)
Though I suspect both may be equally painful and joyous processes.
Are you crazy?!
As ever, thank you for reading. Feel free to comment and add your own analogies in the boxy bits below 🙂