Dissertation Woes

As you guys probably already know, I’ve been working on my Master’s dissertation for awhile. The dissertation is 30,000 words long – the first half of a novel. Mine is the first serious novel I’ve undertaken. (I wrote my very first novel at the age of 12. It was 18 chapters long, and the first time I read it over, I deleted the whole thing. I guess I could recognise bad writing even back then.)

Anyway, I’d already started writing the dissertation before I began the degree, so about two years ago now. I met the full word count of 30,000 words midway through the spring 2016 semester. I was so proud that I’d managed to complete it with plenty of time left to tweak it before it was due in September.

Every writer’s novel experience is fraught with frustration, stress, self-doubt, sleepless nights, early mornings, countless editing sessions, and way too much caffeine. Mine has been especially difficult; I keep having those epiphanies that writers both love and dread.

In my dissertation, I’m working with two timelines, one set in the past and one set in the present. One of the epiphanies I had was that the style of my past timeline wasn’t working at all, and a complete upheaval was needed. So I scrapped most of what I’d written and started fresh.

Another epiphany was that the sequencing was out of order – Act I was 4 chapters long, Act II was 6 chapters long, and Act III took up the remaining 10 chapters. That wasn’t going to work for obvious reasons, so I had to push the entire story back, flesh out scenes that had been rushed, and save some of the chapters for part two of the novel, which won’t be included in the dissertation.

These epiphanies cost me about 15,000 words, so half of my dissertation. Imagine how upset I was once all the changes were made. I felt almost like I’d started over. I felt like there was no way I could transform the dissertation into what I wanted it to be – at least, not without pulling my hair out along the way.

But I buckled down and finally fished the damn thing this week. I’ve spent the past few days hand-editing the first half. I’ve made all the changes I needed to, so the first 15,000 words are nearly bulletproof, in my opinion. I still need to edit the second half and send it out to my wonderful beta readers, who have been instrumental in the editing process.

Problem is, I’m running out of motivation. Here I am, coming up to the finish line of the race, only to realise it’s only the first lap and there’s still another to go. I’m exhausted. It took all my strength to get through that first lap and I have no idea how I’m going to manage the next one.

I’ve worked on this novel nearly every single day for the past two years. Granted, I’ve taken some breaks, left it alone as much as I could. But I’m tired of looking at it, tired of tweaking it.

What I once considered the greatest and most important work I would ever write is starting to lose its importance to me. I’m reconsidering submitting the full novel to agents once it’s finally finished – whenever that will be. If it’s taken me two years to finish the first half, there’s no telling how long the second half will take.

I remember the day that I realised I probably wouldn’t pursue publication for this novel. It almost felt like someone had taken my child away from me. This thing that I spent so long creating and caring for and shaping into something I could be proud of, it was all for naught.

I know publishing is a long, long way down the road, and I shouldn’t even be worrying about things like that at this stage. But publishing is and always has been the ultimate goal. And if I feel like I can’t do it, then what’s the point of all this?

I’ll push myself to finish editing the dissertation and turn it into something I can be proud of. But after that, I don’t know. It will likely end up in a drawer somewhere, never to see the light of day again. And that’s a shame.


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