When I was a child, I had this foolish idea that novelists simply sat down at their desk and the words just flowed. I knew there was some editing, but I thought it was just minor — grammar and punctuation. And it went this way for me even in high school. I wrote my stories for creative writing and made a few recommended minor changes.
I was totally unprepared for my college class in creative writing. My first urge was to not listen to the teacher, after all it was my story. But I wanted a good grade and I sat down to write with the revisions she had recommended. What I found was that my story began to come alive. I finally understood what other authors meant about a character taking over. I had also once thought that to be a preposterous idea, but once you unleash your imagination — your characters do speak, they take on their own identity, and they often lead you down paths you never envisioned.
My novel in progress is still the same in the inner most core, but characters have been added. Characters have been killed off or removed. Their personalities have changed from what I originally envisioned. While the story still has the main plot line, it is so much richer than I ever imagined. And still being in the first draft stage, I know there are several more revisions and adaptations.
I write not to sell the story, but to tell the story. I've heard of authors who have first, second, and even third novels tucked away. I heard that Bryce Courtenay was actually using his novel, The Power of One as a doorstop at one time until his son's girlfriend read it and urged him to try to publish it. I'm not even sure if this is true, but it gives me hope.
Maybe the only people who will ever read my novel in progress will be family and friends. I hope not, but I'm also okay with that.