Jennifer Hillier

Nothing like the first time

Sep 11, 2014 | Uncategorized

The most fun I ever had writing a book was before I was published. And I’m not referring to CREEP, which was my debut novel. I’m talking about the book I wrote before CREEP. The really, really bad one. The trunk novel.

I started writing it in July 2007. I finished it in October 2007. It was over 400 pages long and something like 128,000 words. It was completely shitty. Everything about it was shitty. Even the title was shitty. It was about a guy who buys an old house and discovers it’s haunted, and oh, guess what, the whole neighborhood’s haunted, too.

I made every mistake a newbie novelist makes. Characters were waking up from dreams constantly. I head-hopped. I switched between past and present tense, sometimes in the same paragraph. I used terrible, unnecessary dialogue tags. (“Stop,” he croaked. “Make me,” she purred). There were long chapters where absolutely nothing happened. 

But oh, was it ever fun to write.

I had no expectations going into it. I wasn’t worried about deadlines. I wasn’t worried about anybody reading it. I wasn’t even thinking about getting published – I knew next to nothing about the publishing industry. All I had was an idea and a lot of time (nothing much was happening in my life at all during that period), and my only goal was to prove to myself that I could commit to finishing a novel-length story. In the past, I had started countless novels that I’d never come close to finishing. I wanted to finish this one. And so I wrote, every day, without fear or judgement. Without panic. Without thinking, even a little bit, about where it might end up.

I haven’t written that way since. It’s a luxury I’m pretty sure I’ll never have again. Why? Because I want more. I expect more. And people expect more from me. Which is not a complaint, it’s just the way it is.

It will never be like it was the first time.

Mind you, is anything ever like it was the first time?

Life has been CRAZY lately. Sometimes I just stop and look around, and I can’t believe everything that’s changed in the past two and half years. Since early 2012, I’ve been on fifteen trips, moved three times, gotten divorced, gotten married, lost two cats, gained one cat, and had major surgery. Somewhere in there I released two books (FREAK and THE BUTCHER), and now I’m working on the next one.

And now this is happening:

This was a month ago. I’m bigger now. And way more tired.

I’m due the third week of November with our first (and probably only) child. It was a complete surprise, totally unplanned, and now life is about to get even crazier! I can’t wait.

And somehow, between now and then, I hope to finish the book I’m working on. And then, at some point, I hope to write another. I have no idea how I’ll do that with a baby in the house, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. And then I’ll write another. And then another. Because, you know, that’s what writers do. Life is a constantly shifting balancing act.

But it’s filled with things that make me so happy. I’m very, very blessed.

I can’t pretend, though, on the days when I’m writing and life feels extra swirly, that I don’t miss how it felt the first time. When there was zero pressure, no deadlines, and no crazy life made crazier by hormones and pregnancy fatigue… when I had nothing but time. When it didn’t matter if the book was shitty.

Yeah… those were the days.

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