Wednesday, September 14, 2011

So You Want to Write a Novel: Writing

So you've got your idea, you've fleshed out characters and plot, and now you're ready to write.  Or so you think...

In all fairness, while my experience writing The Grim may very well be an individual experience, I feel it only fair to warn you: The Grim took five--count 'em, five--long years of writing.  There were moments I gave up.  There were times where I thought what I had already written was ridiculous, mundane, preachy, and a whole host of other adjectives with which I berated myself every time I sat down at my laptop and stared at the next bare page.  I wondered frequently if anyone would even care what I was writing.  And that's the first thing you have to do before you even lift your fingers to tap a key on that keyboard:

Are you writing about something you care about?  Does the story and its characters matter to you?  Do you have something prominent to say, whether its literary fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance, erotica--whatever it is, it has to matter to you.  If you don't care, no reader is likely to either.  Besides, how can you promote it later if it's some half-brained effort you don't believe in...?  You became a writer because you love it; show that love for your craft in your work.

Now, writeEvery day.  I know, I know.  It's ridiculous.  You have a life, a job, children.  You're a soccer mom, an entrepreneur, your daughter's recital is tomorrow, there's an important presentation due at work, the church needs cookies for the bake sale, and you totally forgot to eat today.  But you want to be a novelist, a writer, the next Stephen King or J. K. Rowling.  So like everything else on that list that matters to you, you must make writing a priority.  I know our lives get busy, but commit to at least glancing over your manuscript every day, if for no other reason than to add that comma you missed.  It keeps your work relevant and fresh in your mind.  Trust me, I made the mistake of stepping away from my manuscript.  One day went by, then two, and before I knew it, it took a co-worker to remind me about my book, asking, "Hey, how's the writing coming?"  By the time I got back to The Grim, it had been eight months.  And catching my stride after that...well, let's just say it was an uphill battle.

There are people who will convince you that writing a novel is easy.  I suppose that's up to the individual writer.  For me, I struggled most of the way.  My main character's story was so emotional for me, and I wrestled with her development every time I began to write.  I am also somewhat a perfectionist.  I knew where I wanted her story to end, and it was important to me to get her there in a certain way.  This contributed to the length of time it took to finish the project, because I had set goals, and I was determined the meet them just so.

That said, here's your next important tip: let the story tell itself.  You are the architect, but the story knows better than you do where it's headed and what it needs to say.  I know that sounds funny now, but you'll see once you get started.  I wanted things to happen in a particular way when I wrote The Grim.  But if you know your characters, their back stories, and plots well, the story will build itself with minimal assistance from you.  You'll be surprised how all the pieces come together.  The notes I fleshed out for The Grim was not the story I ended up with...and my novel is better for my lack of "interference".

Of course, it never hurts to learn more about your craft.  As a matter of fact, I'd insist upon it.  Take a literature course, or attend a writer's workshop in your area.  Local recreational services or community colleges usually offer them pretty frequently.  Also, Google your state's writer's association, pay the membership fee, and join.  Trust me, in the long run, it will be so worth it.  Not only are those groups comprised of others just like you, but they offer tremendous programs that cater specifically to your needs as a writer: writing workshops, editing services, publishing contacts, book fairs, and sometimes even job offers.  I belong to my local group and got a part-time position running the charity writers' workshop they developed for high school students.  The seminars they hold are quite informative and can get you pointed in the right direction.

So, now you're perfectly equipped to start tapping away on those keys!  Ready, set, go!

So You Want to Write a Novel Intro
So You Want to Write a Novel: The Idea
Next in this series: So You Want to Write a Novel: Editing

3 comments:

  1. Writing every day feels like a stretch...

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  2. You make the writing part sound so simple. I hope it's really that easy!

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  3. @ D. Hunter: yes, it does sound like a lot of writing...until you get started. When you love something, you don't mind doing it every day.

    @Debbie Peele: its an individual journey. For some author/writers, writing comes easy. Once you've found inspiration and motivation, the rest kind of handles itself.

    Thank you both for reading!

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