Well, not much of a task is it? A novel, yep can’t be that hard, after all look around you, books everywhere. On the net, bookshops, garage sales, junk shops, libraries. Yes, it’s an epidemic, a bit common really. If all those other people in the world can write a book then anyone can. Especially you, because you fancy the idea of writing your own book.
You have a head full of ideas or better still, stories, then surely you’re off and running . . . okay, perhaps not so fast, there are a few questions you might want to consider. Can you write? . . . it’s always a good starting position. Do you know much about the craft of writing and literature? Have you read anything about writing? Have you written shorter stories, essays or prose? What about courses or workshops, attended any by chance? Now don’t let me dampen your enthusiasm because often enthusiasm is all we’ve got (at the start anyway). Despondency comes later.
Right, all of the boring bits aside, let’s start writing, can’t be hard. Remember everyone does it and didn’t you get smiley faces on your primary school stories. Yes, latent talent just waiting to jump out and create the next best seller. Off we go then. No, don’t worry about the story plan, it’s in your head. Structure . . . hm. Characterisation . . . no problems here, people are easy. Point of view, well yes, it’s my book so it’s my point of view . . .? Voice and dialogue . . . can’t be too hard, I have a good imagination. Description, landscape, background, research, time and place, historical research, style, authenticity, scope, method, all there to confuse the newcomer on the block and maybe protect the complicated and sophisticated world of writing. No, don’t be deterred, push on, ignorance is bliss, so they say . . .
Okay, first chapter a breeze, a cracker opening. This book is going somewhere (probably the bin but no one is going to be that unkind at this stage). Second and third chapters bounding along, not that the plot has advanced too far, never mind . . . no, don’t get caught up with that academic stuff, it’s your book and you can write it the way you golly well want. Don’t you love the people who have danced out of your head and onto your pages? Well, there’s a warning about falling in love with your own words / writing / characters . . . but that doesn’t probably apply to you because you know it’s really good . . . ish.
Seventy to eighty thousand words later, give or take a few chapters that fell by the wayside (not to mention the many other chapters that should have) you have a manuscript. There are a few too many characters, you can’t actually remember why some of them are there but at the time they just jumped in. Timelines are a bit of a problem. Long gaps that are unaccounted for, what were you thinking . . . The names of some the characters mysteriously change along the way, no worries this can be sorted along with the (unknown to you) grammatical and style errors. The ending is also a heart stopper but probably unbelievable. However, it is fiction isn’t it?
Apart from the exhaustion that settles over the eager and enthusiastic writer after a first draft is completed, the realisation that it’s probably not a best seller (but always remain optimistic . . .) sets in. So too, does the appreciation of how long it takes to turn out writing that is even moderately okay. It’s about at this stage when realistic writers and deflated newcomers run for knowledge, craft development and help! Of course if you still have a belief that your novel is about to be picked up (how I love fantasy . . .) by a publisher, go for it, good luck and let me know how you get on.
Meanwhile I’m back to tedious drafting and editing as well as reading amazing books written by established and proven writers. An analogy that comes to mind (in relation to my own writing) is one of a cyclist (an unfit one) peddling up a steep hill. The start is energetic with heightened levels of enthusiasm but as the climb continues the peddling slows and the puffing begins, then the pedals barely turn until the bike starts to wobble and the only thing left to do is put a foot on the ground to steady. Then on the bike again . . . slower now, the steep hill demands respect . . .