It’s Okay To Lose Your Pants (And Other Lessons Learned From Writing My 1st Novel)

And other lessons learned from writing my first novel.

From initial conception to publication, my first novel took almost 7 years to write. Granted, there were months – years even, that I didn’t work on it at all. But I can safely say that in 7 years I learned a lot about how to write, and how not to write, a book.

It’s okay to lose your pants.

I’m a pantser, not a plotter. Meaning I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t outline, plan, or structure. I let the creative process guide me. I let the story tell me where it wants to go.

But there were many times those pants went missing. I couldn’t find a single thread to write by, much less an entire seat! I was utterly naked, vulnerable, and lost. I had no idea where I was heading. I wailed unto the Universe in abject agony. How could you desert me oh, muse? (Or, um, pants?) I knew I’d never find my direction again. It had all been for nothing.

Needless to say, I always, eventually, found my pants. Usually when I wasn’t looking for them.

It’s okay to lose your pants, your direction, and your inspiration. It happens. You might as well accept it. I did (finally.) And because of that, my second book is proving far less traumatic to write.

Don’t edit while writing.

Justin McLachlan says “Trying to edit while writing is like trying to chop down a tree while you’re climbing it.” It’s true. This is why I was stuck in that damn tree for over 7 years!  Now, if you are utterly pants-less and devoid of all direction, I think it’s okay to go back and do a little editing. Sometimes it triggered ideas for me. But editing constantly as you write is a big mistake.

Perfectionism is not your friend. Self-compassion is.

Should you have your work professionally proof-read and edited? Absolutely. Should you receive feedback before release? Definitely. Should you constantly compare yourself to your favorite, famous authors? Probably not. Should you write and edit, write and edit, until your book is 100% perfect? No. Because it will never be perfect. At some point you simply have to know that you created something wonderful that you are proud of, and let your baby out into the world. You’ll never reach that point if you demand perfection.

If you’re anything like me you can be extremely hard on yourself. The process of writing a novel is HARD. Give yourself some credit and be kind to yourself. I had such a difficult time doing that with my first book.

Writing a novel takes immense faith.

It takes guts, it takes dedication, and it takes a lot of time. But I believe, more than anything, writing a novel takes faith. I knew deep in my heart that this book would be written and I trusted the creative process – even when I was pants-less. Even when I was wailing in abject agony to the Universe, a small part of me knew it would be okay. Nurture and cultivate that part. You must truly believe in your story and the fact that the idea was given to you for a reason. The world needs your book. Have faith that the words will come.

I should have started building my author platform sooner.

I didn’t know how to do it and I didn’t feel worthy enough. I wish I’d found this amazing site sooner: Your Writer Platform Get moving on that, no matter what stage of writing you’re at. Struggling to find readers after your book is published is no-fun.

So there it is. I may do a second post on this topic, as there’s more I’d like to share. Is there anything in particular you’d like me to address?

If you’ve already written and published your first novel, what did you learn?

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  1. says

    Hi Athena! I have read a few posts from your blog after discovering it on Pinterest and although I definitely am a plotter myself, I loved the other point you made in the post and completely agree! Although not published yet the novels and short stories are getting written (as well as getting my blog started) thank you so much for what you have talked about it’s been really helpful 🙂 Funnily enough today’s post has been written on plotting a novel! Would love to know your opinion on it xx

  2. Deb says

    Oh my gosh! Thank you for validating what I have been telling myself ! I can’t edit and write at the same time and that is why I haven’t started . I really love the quote comparing that to chopping down a tree while climbing . I am a perfectionist and trying to stop it. Lol . One of the things I’m learning and can compare writing my first novel to is raisng my kids. They are adults now , some just newly, and I’ve been learning to let go of the parenting process with them, which has been no easy task. I believe this will help me in finding the faith and courage I need to start my writing journey. Thank you for this post , it’s given me newfound zeal 🙂

  3. says

    These are all SO true. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter unless absolutely neccessary. Oddly enough doing some light plotting during a writer’s block time really helped. I’m weird. 😉
    I indie-pubbed the novel of my heart last year, somewhat on a whim. On top of being my own very harsh, perfectionist critic, I hated marketing. Which ended up doing the book a disservice, but hey, you live and you learn. But as you said about rewriting and editing a book–at one point you just need to let your baby fly.
    LOVE your blog!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Meghan! Congrats on publishing your novel! I’m sure we’ll get better at all of this as we go. It’s such a personal process. Oh, and of course, you’re weird. You’re a writer. 😉

  4. says

    Loved your words! Last year, I published my non-fiction account of our journey through my husband’s terminal illness. (I know, sounds dire, but the book has humor and irony as well as sadness). I was something I needed to do and has given me the confidence to write something else, a novel. I too am not much of a “planner”, leaning more towards just writing, letting the words flow and then going back later to see what happened while I was “in the zone”. Also, I am not very disciplined, I tend to write in spurts as the urge takes me. Since I have a full-time job, I only have nights and weekends and obviously have a life too! Thanks for sharing

    • says

      Hi, Deb! I’m so sorry about your husband. But I’m glad that you were able to write about your journey with his illness – I’m sure it will help many who are going through what you’ve gone through. And if it gave you the confidence to write a novel that is certainly a blessing in the face of tragedy. Your writing process sounds a lot like mine. Good luck with your book and thanks for commenting!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Kristen! I really wish I could be more of a plotter. I try, but outlines are my kryptonite.
      Thank you for reading and commenting! I just started this blog last week, so there’s not too much here yet. 🙂 Oh, and thanks for the follow and likes around town. I saw on Instagram you are a thrifter too! Very happy to connect.

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