Dallas Woodburn: The Day I Finished My Novel

Today we’re celebrating the release of The Best Week That Never Happened by debut author Dallas Woodburn, with a guest post about the day she finished her novel.

The Day I Finished My Novel
by Dallas Woodburn

I used to think of myself as a slow, plodding writer. My spirit animal when I am writing a novel would definitely be the tortoise, not the hare. I am The Little Engine That Could. Sentence by sentence, word by word, I keep chugging along on my first draft. If I manage to write 1,000 words in one day, that is a lot for me.

I vividly remember the day—Tuesday, July 11, 2017—that I finished writing the first draft of my YA novel THE BEST WEEK THAT NEVER HAPPENED, which is being published on April 21. At the time, I could sense that I was getting very close to finishing the first draft. I had written the ending already, and just had a handful of scenes I needed to finish up. It was like a puzzle with only two or three patches of blank space left to fill in.

And then, on July 11, I woke up with a searingly clear thought: Today is the day. Today I am going to finish my novel.

I don’t know why the thought struck or where it came from. I don’t know why it seemed so necessary to finish that day as opposed to later in the week or next week. But it did. My creative subconscious had sent me a mission.

I didn’t have any appointments scheduled that day. I had emails and grading to do, but that could wait until later. I steeped green tea in my favorite giant mug from the Serendipity 3 café in NYC, sat down at my computer, and dove in.

I wish I could fully describe to you the magic of that day. It was like getting a “second wind” and sprinting the last mile of a marathon. It was like when you are reading a book you love, and you speed through the final pages because you are so excited to find out what happens. I knew what was going to happen—I was writing it, after all—but at the same time there was still this miraculous sense of discovery. My characters fully came alive. They leapt off the page. By noon, I had written more than 3,000 words. I had to break for lunch because my hands were sore from typing.

I could have stopped there. I knew I could always come back to the novel the next day. I could finish later. But I didn’t want to. I couldn’t stay away. I dove back in and kept typing.

I finished at 4:43pm. I texted my family and shared the news. My final word count for that day was close to 5,000 words, or about twenty pages double-spaced. I had never written that much in a single day. If you had asked me the day before, I probably would have told you there was no way I could do that.

Even though I spent the whole day sitting by myself in front of a computer, I didn’t feel alone at all. It truly seemed like I spent the whole day in Hawaii with these two characters I had come to know so well over the past six months. That final sprint to the finish was like a last hurrah with them. It was perfect.

It was 4:45 pm. I sat down on the couch. I felt so many things. I felt sad to say goodbye to my characters. I felt exhilarated and exhausted. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace that I had made good on my promise, to my characters and to myself. I had finished telling their story. I had stayed with them until the end.

There is such profound magic in finishing what we begin. In staying true to our promises. In following through with our ideas. When we finish what we start, we build confidence in ourselves. That confidence keeps growing and growing. We begin pushing ourselves further. We wonder what else we might be able to start and finish. The limits of our world expand and, eventually, fall away. Our pride and confidence and imagination become limitless.

That day, I knew that no matter what eventually happened with my novel, I gave a huge gift to myself when I typed THE END on page 256 of that Word document. I was filled with such satisfaction and joy and pride in myself. I had said I would do it. And I did it.

Now, I still like to think of myself as The Little Engine That Could. But I no longer label myself as a “slow writer.” I am not the tortoise, nor am I the hare. Some days I might write more slowly. Other days, the words come quickly. I’ve learned that when I simply focus on getting the story down at whatever speed seems most natural to me at the time, then I enjoy the creative journey a whole lot more.

For fans of Everything Everything and The Love That Split the World comes a breathtaking new love story about living each day as if it were your last…

After her parents’ bitter divorce, family vacations to the Big Island in Hawaii ceased. But across the miles, eighteen-year-old Tegan Rossi remains connected to local Kai Kapule, her best friend from childhood. Now, Tegan finds herself alone and confused about how she got to the Big Island. With no wallet, no cell phone, purse, or plane ticket, Tegan struggles to piece together what happened. She must have come to surprise-visit Kai. Right?

As the teens grow even closer, Tegan pushes aside her worries and gets swept away in the vacation of her dreams. But each morning, Tegan startles awake from nightmares that become more difficult to ignore. Something is eerily amiss. Why is there a strange gap in her memory? Why can’t she reach her parents or friends from home? And what’s with the mysterious hourglass tattoo over her heart?

Kai promises to help Tegan figure out what is going on. But the answers they find only lead to more questions. As the week unfolds, Tegan will experience the magic of first love, the hope of second chances, and the bittersweet joy and grief of being human.

The Best Week That Never Happened by Dallas Woodburn is available TODAY. You can order your copy now from IndieBound, Amazon, Book Depository, or Barnes & Noble. Be sure to check out the author’s website to claim your special prize package for pre-ordering! Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “want to read” shelf!  

Dallas Woodburn is the author of the short story collection Woman, Running Late, in a Dress and the novel The Best Week That Never Happened (out April 21, 2020 from Month9Books). A former John Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing and a current San Francisco Writers Grotto Fellow, her work has been honored with the Cypress & Pine Short Fiction Award, the international Glass Woman Prize, second place in the American Fiction Prize, and four Pushcart Prize nominations. She is the host of the popular book-lovers podcast “Overflowing Bookshelves” and founder of the organization Write On! Books that empowers youth through reading and writing endeavors. Dallas lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her amazing husband and adorable daughter.

Connect with Dallas on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and at her website.


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