Putting it Into Words

I've always been an avid reader. I remember picking up my brother's Boxcar Children books as a kid and reading the chapter books cover to cover, before entering first grade. I don't really remember how I learned to read, but it happened before I was in kindergarten. I think my life was always destined toward books and, really, words in general, and my still-developing mind knew it needed to get a head start if I had any hope of accomplishing everything I would come to hope to accomplish.

As the years wore on and I tore my way through the entire Little House set, learned about friendship from the Babysitters Club, dabbled in my mother's old Nancy Drew novels, and learned how to let books comfort me with anything (and everything) by Judy Blume, I found my niche. I just loved literary fiction. Good stories. Stories that could be real, about people who could feel real, written well and told well. I read to feel related to, and to learn that I wasn't a freak. I poured over YA, fan-girled after the Lost Generation of authors, and found dubiously kindred spirits in the Beatniks.

My college years were largely characterized by a relationship that maybe never should have been, but that happened anyway. To put it fairly and judiciously, I would be very different today if that person had never come into my life. I have oscillated between wishing I'd never met him, wishing we could have turned out differently, and feeling satisfied with this place we've finally settled into.

But while we were in the thick of things, off and on and back off and then on again, I had no sense of guidance about where we could go next, or what my life could look like without him, or truly and fully with him. Friends and family told me one thing, he and my heart another, and round and round we went.

For my whole life, books had been there for me—in ways Kristen explains more thoroughly than I could here—when no one in my life really knew how to be, or I didn't know how to let them. But I never read anything about young love that made me feel comforted about my situation, or gave me any hint that any person in the world had ever experienced what I was going through. There was a specific kind of book I was wanting to read, that I felt was a real representation of love in your early twenties, but even to this day I've never found it.

So I decided long ago that someday I would write it.

But did I want to be a novelist? That's where it got complicated. I have always, always loved books. I have always loved writing, and known that my living would be made on it. But there aren't enough words to adequately express what a journey that's been for me. I'll be candid right now: I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. I just know that I should be writing. But a novelist? I always get mad when people asked me what I do for a living, and then follow-up to my response ("I'm a writer.") with, "Have you written a novel?" It's frustrating. Novels aren't the only form of professional writing. I never wanted to be a novelist; hell I never even wanted to write fiction for fun or career. Until I did, of course. And "writing a novel" is seen so incorrectly by so many non-publishing industry people. Writing it is just part one. Publishing it, the part that matters if you want to make a living as a writer? A whole different beast.

Very shortly, I'll be leaving the niche publishing company I've worked at as a writer and editor for over three years. I will (ostensibly) become an editor and reporter at a local newspaper, which was never, ever part of my plans or part of my dream until it became my only route of escape from a soul-sucking, dead-end job. I've worked as a freelance writer, and still do. I've worked as a freelance literary editor, and still do. I've been working on (and then abandoning, and then finally picking up again) a collection of essays for five years, which I've made plans to complete this year. Throughout all that, I've been memorizing lines of the novel I would someday maybe convince myself to write, if I could ever get over myself enough to just sit down and put it into words.

Friday, I got over myself—sparked into action, finally, by a podcasted conversation between Hank Green and author Maureen Johnson in combination with a new level of insult and disrespect from my soon-to-be-former boss—and started writing a novel. By the time I left for Philadelphia Saturday morning, I'd written nearly 8,400 words.

So here it is, the declaration "they" (who?) tell fledgling and hopeful novelists to make if they hope to have any chance of completing it: I'm finally writing on paper the novel I've been writing in my mind in the shower, on the run, in the car, and in my daydreams for too many years. The formal announcement of something I already brushed on yesterday but felt the need to be incredibly dramatic about anyway today. (Have you ever met a writer without a flair for the dramatic?) I feel like a massive cliche just saying this, but every novel that's anyone's ever read (and loved) has had to start with a writer writing it, right? Anyway, let's just hope my writing process doesn't go the way of Nick's zombie novel, ya know what I mean?


  1. You never know when the time is right for you but clearly it's the time for you to write 8,400 words down - that is just incredible girl!! I can't wait to read your finished book! xo, Biana BlovedBoston

  2. So proyd of you. for the job, for the novel for it all!! So very proud of you!!! Literally read your words and said yes yes yes. You will do great things girlie!
    I've been writing a lot these days as well. I have to send an email updating you on that. Anyway back to you. I cannot wait to read your work of art.
    PS I started to read before kinder too. Love this!

  3. That was the book I always wanted to read too. I'm glad you're writing it. Even if it's too late for younger me and younger you, it's just in time for plenty of others. You continue to amaze and inspire me!

  4. There's so much more and yes to this post! Good luck with the adventures and can't wait to read more on it :)

  5. Way to go! I can't wait to see what you turn out. I know there's some quote that says we all have a book in us, and I believe it. But most of us never get around to writing it, so I'm glad you are!

  6. Hey - good for you! Writing a novel is no small task. I majored in English in college, and have always, always loved reading. I am rarely without a book. People always ask me if I have thought about writing. My response is usually "writing what? I'm not creative enough to write fiction." But you're right, there's other types of writing out there. For me, I'd rather soak up other stories that force something out of myself that just isn't there. I've been flirting with the idea of getting my MLIS degree and working in a library but...time and money are hard to come by most days. So for now, I just read as much as I can when I can.

    What's your book about?

  7. Wow, Alyssa! This is amazing! Keeping my fingers crossed for you to stick to this thing!
    By the way, I've been meaning to do the same since... I don't know, since last summer I guess. But I feel I need so much to work on to make it genuine - yes, of course it's all engraved in my memory, but still, it spans through a large period in my life, 18 to 26, so I feel I really need to dig in the life and head of an 18-year-old. Like, what else was I doing back then? What did my high school classes look like? What else was on my mind, what did annoy me, what was my relationship with my sister like, what was I hoping to be and achieve... and so on and so on.
    So far I have this document on my Desktop, the only one you cannot open without a password, haha, and it's called "The". But it's really waiting for some better times.
    As I said the last time you announced you would be publishing a book: I'm looking forward to my signed copy ;)

  8. IT'S HAPPENING!!!! You know what my opinion is? Get in, strap in, and ENJOY the ride. I only see good things coming from this. You're an excellent blogger, writer, and person and I know that whatever it is that you write, it will be filled with your whole heart. And that, IMO, is most important.

  9. Godspeed! Deserving of a dramatic announcement for sure. It's work but I hope you enjoy it.

  10. I'm so glad you included Nick's zombie novel in there. That's how my book writing attempts go.. But you got this, and I can't even wait.

  11. Hahaha Z is for Zombie!!! YES!!!! Girl, I know you got this. You so got this! I cannot wait to purchase your book and dive right on in! Books have always been a big part of my life too, even if I did abandon them for a few years, I always find my way back. I think it takes a lot of bravery and passion to pursue something like writing your own novel. And that my friend, you have in spades!

  12. when you put it like that... i had that relationship, but never that book.. gosh, it would have helped to be able to read about it.. all the books i read during those times (and before and after) might have had inklings of what i needed, but then they would have happy endings or meet someone else, and it's like.. well that doesn't help me does it? i'd feel just as useless. so now i totally understand where you are coming from and i'm not sad about it at all.. actually, i'm sad you didn't write it like 10 years ago, i could have used it then ;)
    good luck!! seriously, it's gonna be the bomb dot com.

  13. Writing a fiction novel is, by far, the hardest thing I've ever done (and the fact that I junked it and have started over brand new speaks volumes about my state of sanity) and I wish you the very best of luck. I know you don't need it because you are 2347 shades of amazing.

    Hank Green! The lesser known Green brother! I love that you mentioned him.

    Also, everything you said about books and the comments about writing. Yes. Just yes.

  14. when I told people I worked at the Dept of Veterans Affairs they would ask if I was a nurse or doctor. Now that I work for the forest service they ask if I'm a ranger or if I say USDA they think I inspect meat. people always jump to the most well known or stereotypical job when they hear a location. I feel your pain haha. keep chugging along on that book! loving following you along on the journey.

  15. This is going to be great! And therapeutic. And be prepared to learn things about yourself and explore feelings you never knew you had... Keep going even when it sucks to do so. Because it'll suck at times. It might suck for months (or years!), even. But keep going! Because it's an important story.

    And it's interesting that I was a full-fledged reader by kindergarten too... I don't remember how it happened, either.


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