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Cheating On My Novel

During a wedding, novel writer Lauren DeFelice reconsiders her 12-year dedication to a fantasy novel, and wonders if it's "cheating" on her novel to explore a new concept.

By Lauren DeFelice

February 01, 2024

At my cousin’s wedding in Richmond, I expected the usual wedding staples: tearful speeches, champagne clinks, and celebration late into the night. What I didn’t expect was an ache in my chest about my novel. Of all things to be thinking about at a wedding!

My cousin found “the one,” and I couldn’t be happier for her. But as relatives asked me about how my publishing journey was going, I wondered: was my current novel “the one?”

For 12 years, my fantasy novel has been my love. We wrote, revised, enlisted beta readers, and battled through the querying trenches together. I even went back to my eighth revision after querying, feeling so close to publication. I restudied magic systems and worldbuilding, reworked everything from the ground up, and eventually, I exhausted all my capacity to work on it.

I found myself asking, “Is this idea publishable? Or do I let go and move on to another project?”

I couldn’t imagine a life without this novel. I didn’t think I even had any other novel concepts in me. But I did. While drafting a short story for class, I accidentally stumbled upon a new novel concept. Immediately, I stopped.

I shouldn’t spend time developing a new novel, I thought. I should work on my novelthe one I want completed and out in the world.

“Ah. I’ve felt that guilt. That’s a mistress novel,” my fellow book inc writers said. “A novel you develop on the side of your main project.”

A mistress novel? Like I was an adulterer?

At the wedding—as I watched my cousin marry the man of her dreams and contemplated the road to publishing—I remembered this comment, and I found it couldn’t be more true. I was cheating!

For years, I was married to my novel, pushing aside any other ideas with a flash of a ring on my finger that said, “I’m taken.” Any glances at other novels made me feel shameful or like a failure.

By writing the first chapter of another project, I was breaking my vows to see my original novel through to the end, death do us part! I hated to throw away a 12-year marriage overnight.

But I wasn’t married. I hadn’t published it yet, or walked down the proverbial aisle. It’s a book.

I stepped back and asked myself a simple question: why was it so dire this book became my debut novel?

It wasn’t. Any novel could be my debut. As an artist, my purpose is to create, and new stories will inject new lessons into my writing journey.

I’m only 23, after all! That’s far too young to be married to any one project.

So I challenged my guilt, and in experimenting with new ideas, I opened myself up to less serious endeavors; I made writing fun again. In time, I’ll grow to love this new novel just as much.

My new plan is to develop two novels at once. I’m not quite ready to let go of my original novel, but the new one shows promise. By 2025, I intend to draft the new concept as my honors thesis.

I am not married to my book. I just love it. And there’s room in my heart for a second novel, too.

Lauren DeFelice

Lauren DeFelice is a novelist and illustrator pursuing an English major at Monmouth University. She is currently revising her debut YA Fantasy/Thriller series, CALL OF EMBERS.

Lauren DeFelice is a novelist and illustrator pursuing an English major at Monmouth University. She is currently revising her debut YA Fantasy/Thriller series, CALL OF EMBERS.