You’ve always wanted to write a novel. You’ve had the plot and characters swimming around in your head for years. One day you tell yourself, “I can do this. All those authors I’ve read make it look effortless. If they can do it, so can I.”
Ah, I remember those words so well. Little did I know I was embarking on one of the hardest journeys of my life! And, while there are moments of exhaustion and disappointment, there are equal amounts of excitement and fulfillment that completely outweigh the bad. But, make no mistake, to finish a novel; you REALLY have to want it.
Here are a few reasons why.
1) Writing is hard work.
Writing anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 words is grueling. If you’re not actually sitting at the keyboard, you’re thinking about your plot, or characters, or prose. You place everyone you meet under a looking glass, studying their body language, their speech, their laugh, their smile, and a hundred other expressions humans make. You hope they’ll say something witty you can use, or get angry so you can dissect their emotions. All the while you’re trying to be inconspicuous. No one wants to be stared at and studied like a lab rat. So you hang on their every word and smile while your mind races with opportunities for your next character or scene. Sometimes, a scene can come from the most unexpected places. So you thank God for those little miracles of inspiration when they fall into your lap. And then you hurry home to write.
2) Editing is harder.
At times when you’re writing the first draft of your novel, you become almost giddy. No one could possibly say that this isn’t the best thing ever written. Then you start editing and wonder what on EARTH was I thinking. A sinking feeling sets in when you realize the hours you spent on that wonderful scene may have been a total waste of time. You want to delete it, but you convince yourself parts might be salvageable. So you edit it to death. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Eventually you come to a point where you chalk it up and move on. You think you put it out of your head, but it’s simmering somewhere in the back of your mind. And the good news is, sometimes before you finish the book a light bulb goes off, and you realize exactly why that bad scene didn’t work. The better news, you know what needs to be done to fix it. There’s a lesson to learn from this little rant: Never delete anything. Because those light bulb moments are a whole new form of giddy.
3) When to say it’s finished is the hardest.
To finally decide that you’ve done everything you could to write a good story is probably the hardest thing a writer can do. But after you’ve edited your book for the twentieth time (and I have) you might need to decide it’s time. But writing is subjective, depending upon the individual who’s reading it. Not everyone will love or even like your work. And there has to come a time when you feel secure enough in what you’ve written to send it out to agents or publishers.
That doesn’t mean you will not be plagued by all the doubtful story questions. Are your first sentence, first paragraph, and first chapter strong enough to catch their attention? Or will they read the first line and toss it aside? Is your protagonist likeable? Is the villain evil enough? Is the internal and external conflict believable? There are a thousand questions a writer can worry about. But from the moment you send it out the door there’s only one question that should be on your mind. Will they accept my manuscript or reject it? In the meantime start writing your next book, because if you get a YES, they’re going to want more.
And while rejection hurts, don’t give up. Take classes, read craft books and keep on writing. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Just remember, there is such a thing as a rainbow after the storm.
Until next time,