Here I am, a struggling writer, unpublished and far from reaching that goal. Why then am I trying to write a novel? It would seem the more logical approach would be to write short stories, a lot of short stories, and try to get them published to provide income, publishing credits, and start building that ever important platform. But, this novel has been banging around in my head for about three years now, and something has been telling me I need to get it on paper.
I don’t really do NaNoWriMo, as it stresses me out to try to keep up with quotas, despite the fact that if I do want to become a writer, and I’ll need to do just that. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to write the novel for a couple of reasons that I feel are pertinent to other beginning writers out there.
- I’m a lazy writer. I have always struggled with the fact that I actually don’t like to write. Writing is far too slow for my ADD brain, and it is a tedious and tiring process for me. So, I am not very prolific, at all. But, when I decided I wanted to write this novel, and gave myself a small goal, a baby step, to encourage myself to build a new habit.Previously, I only wrote occasionally when a story idea would strike. Now, I’ve tried to dedicate myself to writing 1000 words a day on the novel. That doesn’t mean I can’t write more if the feeling strikes, but that also means I can’t count words typed for a blog post or anything else. Those are extra.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. Those are perhaps the smartest words uttered by a politician. I feel somewhat comfortable with the structure of a short story. It is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t typically require too much planning in advance.A novel, however, is a much different animal. To be fair, I have read some novels that feel and are structured much like a short story, but they tend to be few and far between. When I first had the idea for the novel I decided to try to “pants it,” or discovery write the story. I knew generally what I wanted it to be about, but not much else. I made it to chapter two before I had to give up. That was three years ago.Since then, I’ve worked on an outline and a few character studies, as well as put some real thought into the structure of the story and what kind of tale I want to write. That has helped immensely. Though, I still leave room for impromptu changes as I write. And believe me, the story often surprises me with where it wants to go. Sometimes that is a good thing, and other times it means some major cutting and rewriting.
But, the thing that struck me most was how little I understood about story structure when I scaled up from a short story to a novel length piece. Not only that, but I kept finding myself stopping to look up terminology or history in order to be able to move to the next piece of writing. Granted, as I write more of these (dear God, help me), I may learn to just write through it and come back to it later. But, for now I feel compelled to stop and make sure I grasp the concepts.
- Working on a steady project keeps me writing. In the short time I’ve been writing this book, about 35 days, I have found that I look forward to writing now, where I didn’t before when I was trying to come up with a short story from scratch. When I load up Scrivener (wonderful writing program if you get a chance), I read through the previous day’s final paragraph, then I’m off and running.Now, I realize that despite having 27,000 words, I have a long way to go, not only to reach my target goal of between 80-90k words (industry standard for fiction), but also that once I reach that goal, it is only the beginning of the real work. I still haven’t tackled editing such a large piece, and I can already tell I will have to murder many of my darlings and not so darlings.
So, if you are just starting out as a writer, I still recommend you begin with short stories until you feel comfortable with turning a story idea into a completed work. That will give you the basic understanding of story structure and composition.
But, as soon as you feel you have an idea for a novel, don’t be afraid to start giving it some thought. Do a rough outline and explore your characters a little bit. Write a short story about the idea you want to do as a rough draft, and many things about your story will reveal themselves. Then, try your hand at doing a full novel. You’ll be amazed how much you learn about the process by actually doing it. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to publish that novel. There’s a reason many authors’ first books are usually the third or fourth to be published.
Until next time, write on.