Friday, December 05, 2008

Three Ugly Truths of Novel Writing

This probably would've been more helpful when so many of you were joining the November Novel Writing Month Challenge. Nevertheless I found this at by UK author and freelance journalist Sean McManus, and thought it bore repeating.

So here it is five weeks late but something to think about.

Three ugly truths of novel writing

If you're going to write a novel, you need to accept three ugly truths.

The first is that you're not writing a bestseller. If your goal is to get rich, you're better off spending your time doing a paper route and buying lottery tickets with the money. In the UK alone, 130,000 new books are published annually. That means that there are 356 new books every day. Maybe you'll strike it lucky. But the odds are stacked so overwhelmingly against you. The only good reason to write a novel is that you'll enjoy it. It's not worth being a tortured artist in the hope you'll get a payday at the end.

The second ugly truth is that writing is hard work. It takes dedication to complete a book. If you're writing a story of 100,000 words, you'll need to write about 2000 words every week for a year. I'm not saying your book should be that long. Publishing formats (including online) are much more flexible nowadays. But you do need to be sure you can commit the time necessary to finish the kind of book you want to write.

The third bad tiding is that you're going to waste a lot of time. You'll need to rewrite scenes as your story evolves. You'll probably want to re-do earlier bits, as you get to know the characters better and improve your writing skills. You might spend a weekend writing a chapter you delete outright. Sometimes you have to write a scene to see whether it works or not. I don't think anything from the first three months of writing (perhaps more) survived into my final story. And that is very much a good thing. If you can't accept you'll waste time, you'll find it hard to delete stuff that really should go.

Once you accept those truths, you have absolute creative freedom. You don't have to conform to traditional notions of what kind of books sell. You don't have to meet anyone's deadlines but your own. And you can write whatever you like. If you'll enjoy writing it, write it.

You can publish online in a range of formats, including print-on-demand paper books and ebooks. Your book will definitely be published if you want it to be. Write for the fun of it, and have faith that you can get your story into circulation at the end.

You might not have millions of readers, but you will have a wonderful experience. Enjoy the journey.

I especially agree with the last statement. Enjoy the journey, folks. There is joy to be found there.

Have a wonderful writing weekend.

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