From the very beginning, I told everyone I was going to write a novel. Just like that, I became accountable. The Success of Suexliegh took me four years to complete; one hard year of writing, another year of editing, one year of wallowing when life took over, and another year of editing and prepping to publish. After years of writing highly planned and plotted scripts where I always knew exactly where I had to be story/character/audience-wise by a certain page I became very tired of the "formula." And to be honest, tired of those kinds of stories. Tired of writing.
Some stories just aren't meant for the Hollywood three-act structure.
As a mini-rebellion against this. I decided to challenge myself: write an entire novel with no forethought. No outline. Just find the pieces (characters) and let the game play out as it may. For a long while, friends and I had talked about the richest man in the world, Suexliegh (a name we created due to its impossibility of spelling, pronunciation and confusing, silent "x", something I perhaps am now regretting), who could buy his way out of any problem, could do anything, but had just as many problems as you or I. This character had been bouncing around in my brain and I wasn't quite sure how to get him out. So, I used the simplest answer possible: just start writing.
Every night for almost a year, I sat down and wrote two pages. Sometimes it was a struggle, sometimes I had tons of energy and was ready for more, but I always stopped at two pages. Mostly because that was manageable time-wise, but also, as a lot of authors advise, if I stopped before I was out of ideas it'd be easier to pick up the next day. I went along like this for months, just letting the characters dictate where the story should go and making sure to have as much fun with each chapter as possible. My only goal that I set myself was to write 100 chapters, each 2 pages long, to round out the book at 200 pages which seemed like a nice neat number.
Miraculously, without any outline whatsoever and just letting the characters tell me what should happen, towards the end of the book it all started making sense. All the characters that had been set up were moving towards each other to a natural conclusion. In all the years I had been trying to plan for a movie's perfect climax and conclusion with copiously written outlines, arcs, and even spreadsheets, they were never as satisfying as just letting the story tell itself. Back then, I was so worried I would get lost while writing, that I trapped myself. Instead, with Suexliegh, I was free to take all the twists and turns I wanted, going down story tangents and then reeling it back in when necessary. Exploring. Experimenting. It felt much more alive and unexpected than anything I had written. Characters are the heart of any story, you just need to be able to trust them, and yourself, to follow their lead.
None of this would have been possible had I not told everyone I knew that, in my spare time, I was writing a book. It almost became "Oh, you're right a book? I'll believe it when I see it." Doesn't matter if you have a fancy laptop or expensive writing software, most people never finish creative works that they start. But, if you tell family and friends that you're writing a book, not only are you holding yourself accountable to finish this, but everyone else is too. I've heard this echoed elsewhere: tell everyone about your goals and you will be much more likely to succeed.
For writers, there are tons of blogs and websites where you can post your work, and if you're up for the challenge definitely check out National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where you are set to the task of writing an entire novel in a single month.
Well, it's time I make myself accountable again. I haven't told anyone yet, but I'm already about one-hundred pages into my second novel which will be released early next year. Hopefully, now that I've said that, I'll actually finish it.