I’m cheating on my novel with another novel.

cheatingonnovelI started a brand new novel.
Why did I start a brand new novel?

It’s not like I don’t have anything to write. I have three serious fiction projects going on right now. One is my webserial. One is the novel I wrote two drafts of in grad school. And one is the third Beware the Hawk book. People are waiting for all of these. I’m committed to all of them.

Fiction-writing time is precious these days, because I’m working as a freelancer at home, and when I’m not freelancing, I’m taking care of my young son or helping my husband figure out this puzzlebox of an old house we just moved into. (“Why is it 80 degrees in some rooms and 50 degrees in others?” “What does this random knob on the wall do?” “Can you bring the baby monitor into the basement and help me figure out a thing?”)
Despite all of these things that have a claim on my time, I opened up a new document, and started writing a brand new novel last month.

Guess what I’m spending all my fiction-writing time on. I don’t want to do anything but write it. It’s the thing that gets me into my office in the morning and it’s the thing that keeps me from leaving for lunch. I think about the plot and the characters constantly. I write it in my head when I’m shoveling snow and when I’m going to sleep at night. I’m basically having a writing affair with it.

And of course, because it’s an affair, I feel guilt. Guilt, because I have a trilogy to finish, two thirds of which have been published and have actual, honest-to-god readers who occasionally message me on Twitter and ask after my protagonist. (Guys, I love you for that. Just saying.)
Guilt, because the people I went to school with keep asking me when I’m going to finish my drag queen/Shakespeare literary fiction novel and send it out to agents.
Guilt, because I am spending my time writing this manuscript that makes me so, so happy, and it’s a full-fledged swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel, and sci-fi/fantasy has always been my first love, no matter how much Flannery O’Connor and Graham Greene charmed me later in life.

But this book I’m working on makes me feel like a kid again. It reminds me of my first glorious unfinished novel, which I wrote when I was fifteen years old. I’d finish my homework and sit in my father’s office, writing this crazy fantasy epic with talking horses and hell-tunnels and not really a coherent plot, on one computer while my dad worked on the other. I’d write until my parents loudly announced that I had to go to bed. I had not developed an inner editor yet, and I never planned to show anyone what I was writing, so I didn’t even care if it was good. It was just for me, and that time I spent writing was my favorite time of the day.

Writing that behemoth was just pure joy, and I never thought I’d feel that again. And maybe I won’t, but this new novel comes close. Maybe it’s because I’m writing fantasy, and I just love fantasy. Or maybe it’s because at this point, this book is just for me. There’s no writing group or editor waiting for this one. I have no grand rewrite plans. I have no commercial plans for it. My ideal reader for this book is me.

I’ve spent my adult life writing things for other people: newspapers, editors, writing groups, teachers, mentors, whoever. It feels like a gift to be able to write something for myself. I just wish it weren’t taking away from the time and energy I should be spending on other projects.

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