I’ve been asked this a few times and thought I would address this question- I have a novel in me. How do I get it out? Well…for starters, there are better things to eat, but seriously, sometimes the hardest part of any new venture is taking the first step and just doing it.
The novel if you look at it in its biggest can be a dread inspiring journey. After all, a novel is supposed to do so many things, entertain, challenge, explore, change the world, enlighten people, bring joy and hope, allow one a way of contemplating the sorrows of others and perhaps alleviating our own. It’s big and daunting and when you throw in all the practical fears, like does the world really need to hear this love story? Probably not, but you are not writing for the world; you are writing first because you love to write and have to get the story out. Will it sell? There will never be a formula or way to know whether something will sell or not. Times, the economy, world events, are not something in your control and nor should you worry about it. Will I spend hours and hours of work and have nothing to show for it in the end? This is a question I think troubles many people. One way of looking at it, is this…if you are enjoying writing and can’t wait to get to your desk to crack out another scene, then it is impossible to waste time, for a great part of life’s joy are the moments lost in pleasure. Will anyone want to publish it? That is a question that has changed within our current time; you can easily self publish if the brick and mortar boys reject your work. Will the critics tear it to shreds? Does that really matter, you are writing for yourself and for people like you, who like what you write. The fears go on and on, and it can become crippling. One has to release the what’s ifs to experience the what is.
But, a novel isn’t only about the anxiety and the hard work involved; it’s really just about telling a story that means something to you. It’s your journey, your imagination, and it’s something inside you crying to be heard. The only way to address this trepidation is to put all those questions out of your mind and just start to write. Don’t worry about how good it is, the first draft never is all that you imagine it can be. Writing is like putting your hand into a murky pond because you know something of tremendous value is at the bottom. You reach in and pull something up that is covered in muck and mire. You have something in your hand, it may not be what you intended, but then you go and clean it up to discover a sparkling jewel. Writing is like this. You first must get the story out, worry about cleaning it up later, and it will need cleaning.
One of the greatest pleasures in writing, particularly a novel is the first draft, writing the story, letting your characters say all they need to say, and that enjoyment comes with a thrill. You are in a world of your own. Enjoy the process. Enjoy that feeling of being in another time and space and just let your fingers fly over the keys as fast as they can.
It may take days or weeks or even months to start to feel this sense of freedom, but give yourself permission to explore. Later on with the novel finished (well that first draft anyway) then you will have to take it out to the world. By the world, I mean a critical eye, and like a surgeon whose purpose is to cut away the bad to save the life, so too will you learn to edit, to cut, to cull your novel into the story it was meant to tell.
In the meanwhile just get in the chair and start to write something even if it’s just the character name, or what you want to write about, and maybe after five pages of writing what you hope to write, you will find the characters taking over and telling you what they are crying out to say. Writing a novel is a crazy process and with anything insane, you can’t analyse it, you just have to run amok in the proverbial madhouse and laugh as you do.
Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. – E. L. Doctorow