So you want to write a novel?
Good for you! You’ve now joined the club of people who say they want to write a novel. It’s an exciting club, often seen at coffee houses and bookstores. It’s full of people talking about either how great it will be once the novel is all finished; or they complain about how difficult it is to make a living as a writer these days, they’ve heard. It’s full of people with honest-to-goodness, no sarcasm here, good ideas. And they’re all very fine people, usually enthusiastic with a literary bent of some sort.
“How’s your novel coming along?” they will be asked. And more often than not, the answer will be something, a lot of something...that adds up to nothing. Let’s go over some common responses to that terrifying question of
How is Your Novel Coming Along?
“It’s not done. I just don’t have the time to write!”
It’s hard to sit down and write an entire novel or even a short story. It’s such a huge project! You can’t imagine actually finishing it. Maybe you have huge responsibilities like work, or maybe you’re going to school. Maybe you have children. All that doesn’t mean you don’t want to write. It’s just that finding the time is nearly impossible!
If you want it bad enough, you’ll find time. If you can just find fifteen minutes a day to get something out, that’s progress. One fifteen minute session turns into two which turns into you losing track and amazed at what you have down so far.
‘Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like “The Lord of the Rings”, the work is always accomplished one word at a time.’ —Stephen King
Like him or hate him, you can’t deny that King is one of the most prolific authors of our age. So take what he said to heart. I did.
“It’s not done. I sit down to write and then I get distracted or squirmy. It’s like I want to write but I don’t.”
Dude. That’s just fear.
“Nuh uh!” I can hear you saying. “I ain’t ascairt!”
To which I say, “Yeah huh, and also where did you come from, Mr. Mountain-Man-Who-Reads-Blogs?”
Writing is an uncomfortable act. You have to set words down, words out of your heart and soul and their inevitable end is to be read by other people. And be judged. People might think your work is stupid or wrong and subsequently, YOU are stupid or wrong. You may as well get naked, go up to a stranger and ask them if they like what they see.
Don’t do that. I’m not responsible for your well-being.
But anyway, if it’s not the fear of being judged or rejected, then it’s fear of failure. Of not being able to find that next word or of not being able to finish this damn thing. I can’t tell you not to be afraid. It’s going to happen. It still happens to me. But I’d suggest next time when you feel that need to stop writing and browse Facebook ‘just for a moment’, stop. Don’t. Stay with that uncomfortable, restless feeling and just explore it. It’s just fear. It’ll go away. Have some compassion for yourself and then get back to writing.
“I haven’t started actually writing it. I just need to work out how the story world works. Then I can start writing!”
Now, this isn’t uniquely the answer of the genre fiction writers. I’m sure non-fiction folk get wrapped up in their research. But from my standpoint, it was my response for years, even back when the novel was a comic book. I had to figure out just how all the little story elements fit, and they had to fit perfectly or else everything will suck. It could be exactly how the technology or magic in your world works; it could be the history of your world and all the important events leading up to the actual story. I know how it is and how crucial it feels to have a perfect understanding of all the minutiae of your world.
Well, here’s the truth. What you’re doing…
It’s like writing a wiki site of a thing that doesn’t exist yet! You’ll find that as you actually start writing, it’s all going to change. All of it. All your carefully planned details are going to have to shift and melt and merge into what they’re meant to be. Originally, Vessels was called Radiant and was going to be amount magic stones. Now it’s about a black goo that animates the dead. And I would have never gotten to that point if I hadn’t sat down to write and do the work.
It’s going to be okay. You don’t have to start at the beginning. Just pick a scene and write it. You know just the one. The one that bounces around in your head when you’re not looking. The one that’s projected on your eyelids right before you go to sleep. That’s the one. Start there.
(Rabbit and Eagle: Pixabay, Capri23auto)