It has occurred to me that I am not writing my novel. Which is to say, that the novel I am writing is not one that I recognise as “mine”. That’s still open to misinterpretation. The novel I am writing is certainly my own work, of course. But it somehow is not my baby, either.
In 2006 – that is, seven years ago – I came up with the idea for a novel in which the central characters were in a BDSM relationship that was significant but that was neither crime-related (like the slasher thrillers I grew up with) or the unrealistic erotica of which 50 Shades of Grey is just a recent example, and that have been around for over 20 years now. At the same time, I didn’t want it to be, “Here’s Joe and Sue, and here’s their story. Oh, btw, they are totally kinky, even though there’s no reason in the story for them to be, and it does’t actually have any effect on how they live their lives”.
It took me a while to work out what that story would be, but in the end the ongoing tension between kink rights, feminism and social norms shaped an idea for a plot and the characters who would be caught up in the events and shape them. I started writing, and then struggled to keep going (FYTP, severe depression). In 2012 I resolved that I would finish the first draft that year – then got interrupted halfway through the year by having to move home. But the first draft IS finished now.
The thing is, a lot changed in those seven years. The plot needed to adapt to recognise that BDSM is not in quite the same place with respect to social norms as it was when I started. I have also learned and seen and lived a lot more than I had 7 years ago – more or less 25% more, in fact.
The novel I have written is not the novel I planned to write seven years ago. It is not my novel.
If I had started from scratch in 2012 or 2013, then I would have mapped out a very different plot from the same basic concept, and probably come up with different characters as a result. The novel I have written is not my novel for 2013.
It’s not my novel in that it is not a novel that at any point I set out to write. When I finished the first draft and could look again at the storyline, the plot, characters, settings and so on, I was convinced I had written something good. A story worth putting the effort in to tell properly: redrafting, tweaking, and eventually, marketing. I like what I’ve written. It’s just that the author is some weird putative version of me who might have existed at some point between then and now.
But it is my novel. I fell in love with my characters, and hated when I had to put them through trials (as any writer must) and felt gladdened when they found their resolution (although actually, it’s left wide open for a sequel, if I decide how I want to write it). It came out of my brain and it does tell a story that I invented. I might never have planned such a story, but it is still a story that comes from me, and that I was able to tell.
And that is something for which I feel pride.