Writers Guild
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Writers Guild

Winter Passes, the Growing Season Comes

On Finding a New Novel & A New Lease on Life

“Person in a brown hat sitting in a field of wildflowers” by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Two and a half months ago, I started working on a new novel. (I had to double check the math, because it doesn’t feel like two and a half months. But, yes.)

The last time I worked on a novel seriously was Tuesday, November 8, 2016. I sat on the ground outside of the performing arts center at Victor Valley College, and tried to write as the world imploded. I didn’t open Scrivener for months after that, and even when I did, I never made any real progress.

I had been paralyzed by fear, depression, anger, angst, worry; the whole damn legion of negative emotions. Trump aside, the time between late October and New Year’s is an unpleasant time of the year for me: my birthday (I hate getting older), the anniversary of my girlfriend’s death, Thanksgiving, my girlfriend’s birthday, Christmas (spent at home), New Year’s (spent at home).

And then Seasonal Depression kicks that all the way through until March or April, when the world as a whole becomes less gloomy. Except, somehow, that seasonal depression didn’t let up. Honestly, it’s just barely begun to let up in the last month or so.

Where some people have winter, I have mini-Ice Ages.

So I started writing.

Two and a half months ago. February 15, 2018. Somewhere after Trump’s election, I became a true-blue Twitter native. And it was on Twitter that thunder struck. I got this idea for a novel. And I had to start writing it.

I hadn’t felt that in such a long time. I was convinced that I would never write again. I’d poured five years into writing and polishing and querying my first novel, only to have it fall flat. (Okay, so I had some great requests and some very nice rejections. But I didn’t get an agent. I didn’t sell the book.)

But then the spirit moved me. The words just began to pour out of me.

When I first made a commitment to writing every day, I made a goal of 250 words. Something easily achievable. Most days, I hit around 500ish, and I was over the moon.

Every in the last half of February ’18, I wrote over a thousand words. I wish that I could say I maintained that as a streak, but that didn’t happen. But I kept writing. Kept pouring myself into this story. I’m closing in on 50,000 words of the rough draft, now.

This is the fastest I’ve ever written anything.

Not only is the story timely, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to write. While the scenario is pure fiction, the emotions and the feelings that my character faces are intensely personal. Most days I’m writing with tears rolling down my face. Even though rough drafts are always pretty terrible, and this one is no exception, I can see what I want this story to be. I’m already thinking of agents that I want to send it to (way, way down the line.)

I’m excited about writing fiction again. But even more than that, in the last few weeks, my friend and boss Shaunta has encouraged me to start writing on Medium again. I had a good period of it a couple years back, but I let it go. Depression is the mortal enemy of good habits; when the winter winds sweep in, everything good will die.

In the middle of winter, it seems like Spring will never come. But here it is, growing season again. Let’s hope that it sticks around for a good long while. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Zach J. Payne is, to borrow the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive Payne.” He writes poetry, plays, essays, and novels for young adults. Sign up for his mailing list, and receive his Query Letter, Deconstructed.

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Zach J. Payne

Zach J. Payne


(He/They) Ninja Writer. Thespian. Queer. Essayist, poet, novelist.