Writing a manuscript = the hardest thing I’ve done

Even writing about writing a manuscript seems to be an impossible endeavour some days, like today.

I change out of my pyjamas and into sweatpants, and I might even slap on a bra to give the illusion that I’m a working professional. Except my hair is wild and I haven’t brushed my teeth yet and I’m so damned tired from so many sleepless nights due to a damaged rotator cuff that I haven’t sought medical help for, because I’m afraid my insurance won’t cover the physical therapy and I’ll have to go back to Canada. And my stomach is growling as I wait for money to be deposited into my account so I can finally get some groceries. I ate my roommate’s Oreos for breakfast. I dumped out my coin purse and scrounged up enough Euros to buy a second-hand copy of The Hare With the Amber Eyes at Saint George’s Bookstore.

The writer’s life, amiright?

Being a writer was a lot easier when I was in high school and I didn’t have Facebook distractions and I lived under my parents’ roof and I wasn’t so beaten down by failed career goals.

But I do it anyway because it’s the only thing I ever wanted to do.

This morning I penned the final editing touches on my first complete manuscript. A YA novel set in Newfoundland. Obviously I won’t divulge further details just yet, but now comes the process of finding an agent or approaching a publisher head on. And while many of you might think it’s taboo to talk about a book before it’s even been read by anyone, I decided I’d take you along on the journey with me. Even if I don’t get anywhere, I’ll self publish. “Self publish” makes me want to cringe sometimes because I never imagined I’d go that route. I’m not a marketer or a businessperson. But sometimes it’s a route that works. So here we go.

I started out under the guidance of Leigh Shulman at The Future Is Red. We had worked together at Matador Network and so I knew she’d be a great mentor, and she was. But then I got accepted into Humber’s writing correspondence program and earned a scholarship to work under the guidance of Olive Senior, a Canadian author.

When it’s your first time putting together a manuscript, it really does help to have someone else’s encouragement.

I Skyped with Olive last month about what to do next. She recommended me for a certificate of distinction at Humber, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Sometimes, sometimes we just need affirmation that we can do this. That I’m not another overzealous contestant who thinks he/she is mega-talented but will get booed off the stage by the judges. A small nudge out the door and a pat on the back.

If you’re wondering how I did it, here’s the secret formula to creativity:

There is none.

For me, I get up around 9 AM. I make some coffee and sit down to read for an hour or so. Reading helps put me in the right mindset. It relaxes me and makes me start thinking about words and storytelling before I log online and am distracted by more sad news stories and offensive Facebook memes.

And then I open Word and start clacking away. I had the seed of an idea before I sat down and started writing this current manuscript; I didn’t really know where it’d go. So the story developed as I wrote it. Sometimes I say the story comes out of my fingertips at the keyboard rather than my own brain, but maybe the keys unlock the inner-workings of my mind.

But then sometimes I’m awake in bed at 2 AM and my mind is racing so I crack open my computer again and I start writing from there.

There’s never a right time, there’s just a time.

Forcing myself to sit at that computer everyday was like confronting every greatest fear I’ve ever known. It was facing my own insecurities and sitting in front of a blank page and willing myself to write something, anything. Before self-doubt would grab me and turn me away forever. Where before, as a kid, I’d tackle the task with sheer devotion and love and passion and pure self belief…now I panic and wonder what the hell I’m doing, and whether or not I should give up entirely and look elsewhere for a career.

I did eventually finish that first round of manuscript writing, though. In a café in St. John’s near my apartment, and then I cried about it. Because I did it, even if it’s a terrible manuscript and I’ll get dozens of shitty Goodreads reviews, I finished something. Maybe nothing will come from it and I’ll never earn money from it but there it is, done, I suppose.

Some days I get so discouraged by the flood of emails in my inbox pitching shitty products and guest posts and writing gigs that promise exposure for no payment. I didn’t spend over $20k on an education for exposure. But as long as people care about books and literature and storytelling, I’m happy. And as long as I’m creating something, I’m happy. I think.

  • October 12 2015

    Beautiful, Candice. Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey. I’m just starting mine I suppose, starting to put ideas down and form something that might end up as a story long or short. I’m still searching for that confidence, still battling the demons once I open word document (it’s hard even doing that some days). But I’m happy. I’m glad you are too :)
    Laura Bronner recently posted…On Life and Writing

    • October 13 2015

      Thanks so much, Laura! I’m not sure if it ever gets easier. And I mean, what kind of writing would occur if we sat down at our desks like pompous jerks and were all “this is going to be the best thing ever”? Hahaha.

  • October 12 2015
    pamela preza

    good for you! I hope you get a good publisher and that it sells MANY copies!! Where in NL does your story take place?? bay or town??!!

    • October 13 2015

      A little bit of BOTH! Hahaha. But mostly around the bay. ;) Thanks, Pamela!

  • October 12 2015

    I sure hope I get to read it someday :)

    • October 13 2015

      Thanks Amiee, I appreciate that after all these years!

  • October 12 2015

    Happy enough creating, I hope. :)

  • October 12 2015
    Nicole Emmi

    Lovely, naked & brave. You’ve encouraged me on my own journey – for what it’s worth.
    Thank you :)

    • October 13 2015

      That’s what I like to hear! :) Thanks, Nicole.

  • October 12 2015

    Ah yes, the failed career goals. I have many of those. It’s a curse of those of us who can do it all and have no idea what 1 single thing we could do forever.

    A YA novel set in Newfoundland sounds like a good start! Based on that description, I’d buy it. I like YA novels and I love Canadiana.

    Good luck with your publisher search!

    • October 13 2015

      Thanks so much, Mandy! I appreciate that. It’s hard to focus on a career goal these days when we’re all expected to be multi-talented wizards, right?

  • October 13 2015

    Uhhh whoa – so I missed the site redesign, by the way… it’s FABULOUS.

    Also, holy crap, you wrote a BOOK. That is amazing Candice. How many people can say that? I can’t wait to be able to purchase it.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted…A Trip to Tegucigalpa

    • October 13 2015

      Hahaha you sure did! And THANKS! You’ll be one of the first to know! :)

  • October 14 2015

    Candice, this is so amazing. As a writer I’ve never had the desire to write a book so I give you major props for doing something this challenging, sticking with it and finishing it. I’m sure one day I’ll see your book in a bookstore and I definitely look forward to reading it.
    Alouise recently posted…An Ode to Fall

  • October 16 2015

    Lovely post, Candice, and well done for completing your manuscript! I’m just about to start mine so this was very timely.
    Andrea Anastasiou recently posted…How A Skyros Writing Retreat Changed My Life (And Why You Should Also Consider A Retreat Holiday)

    • October 25 2015

      Thanks so much, Andrea! I appreciate the support

  • October 17 2015

    Love this post – thank you.. I’m sitting here with my head spinning with all the things i want to write about …and haven’t. Congratulations on your accomplishment – a massive achievement

    • October 25 2015

      Thanks so much Rosa, and GOOD LUCK! You can do it!

  • October 21 2015

    Loving the new blog layout! And this is now one of my favourite quotes “There’s never a right time, there’s just a time.” If we all managed to keep that in mind, think how many of our dreams would actually get realized. Good luck in getting a publisher, can’t wait to read your words :)

    • October 25 2015

      Thanks so much, Suzanna! I’m happy you’e following along

  • October 29 2015

    Oh I absolutely love this! I cried when I finished my first manuscript too – just because I NEVER thought I’d be able to do it. I was asked so many times what my “secret formula” was but there wasn’t one. I just sat down in my chair every day and typed… Eventually I’d typed a book. That’s it. It wasn’t a very good book and I don’t actually plan on doing anything with it, but I’m just pleased I wrote it!

    I’m excited to follow what happens next with your book and I wish you the best of luck! Sounds like you have a good support network going on already!
    Lizzie recently posted…6 Really Simple but Effective Ways to Land Your First Freelance Client

    • October 30 2015

      That’s exactly it — it just feels so damned good to FINISH it! Now to get that book deal…haha

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.