Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Write a Novel, Part Ten

Has the past nine weeks of blathering discouraged you in any way? Let's be honest, writing a novel is a lot harder than it sounds. But let's also keep it in perspective. It's not like you're putting a roof on a house in Florida during the summer or being shot at by Iraqi insurgents or having to teach a classroom full of kids whose parents have gleefully given the responsibility for raising the kids to the you. There are clearly harder jobs out there. I never complain about being a writer. It is a privilege. I love to do it. I appreciate getting paid for it, as well. But mainly, I like doing it because of some inner drive I couldn't explain.

We still have a long way to go. I might start faltering a little on weekly posts as several major projects come into focus. But I wanted to take this breather and see how we still felt about writing a novel. It's sort of like the All-Star break in basketball. Just stop all the action and consider what you're doing.

Are you reading enough? Are you spending enough time on your novel? Is the rest of your life suffering? Are you still watching TV? You guys are smart or you wouldn't be reading this blog. I'm not bragging about the blog, but I am quite proud to be a part of it and be associated with people like Jacqueline Winspear, Patty Smiley, Paul Levine, Cornelia Read and Ridley Pearson. But this isn’t the sort of thing you decide to read while you're looking for the TV listings for the next UFC fight or monster truck rally. This is a very specific blog and Thursdays have become even more focused. Don't sell yourself short. The fact that you're reading this means you're pretty bright.

If you're reading this, you have completed a novel and are frustrated that none of the New York publishers have knocked down your doors to buy it; that means you're sane. You are a normal human being with reasonable emotions. At least when it comes to writing and publishing.

So let's keep all that in mind as we start to step off into other subjects related to writing a novel. I am quite open to suggestions if you want to drop me an e-mail or if one of my blog mates wishes to discuss a subject. Ideally, I will trick you into writing the blog post for me and take full credit.  That makes me a professional writer.

Keep writing and stay sane.  Sometimes it's difficult to do both.

We have several quotes related to our subject matter today.

“Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him." William Faulkner

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”― Maya Angelou

“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you." Neil Gaiman


  1. You must be an awesome sports coach. I had a passing interest in writing and you've fired me up.

  2. from Jacqueline: Jim, I've loved these posts, because I believe that, as a writer, if I think I'm "there" then I'm done for. Your posts have made me think again about what I do, and I've printed certain parts and pinned them to the wall in my office. I take writing classes/workshops whenever I can - and never in fiction, because I believe in cross-training (one of my past instructors, in memoir, likes to quote me as saying at the first class "This is my writing gym - I'm working the muscles here.") I try never to tell anyone I'm a published author, because I want to learn with everyone else. I get frustrated at myself a lot - because sometimes I can't make the words do what I want them to do - brings to mind one of those tools that plumbers use to bend pipes; I need one of those in my brain sometimes! But I liked the quote by Neil Gaiman - I think the best place to write from is the heart - whatever your genre, write about something that captivates you, that has sparked your curiosity or garnered your compassion - and then work. work, work on the craft. It's humbling, and it's hard - but as I always say, I'm not writing in a country where some guy with a towel wrapped around his head is trying to shoot the you-know-what out of me for having a voice. And that's another reason for writing - because we can. Thanks for your excellent posts, Jim.

  3. Thank you robert and jackie. I did coach for many years.

    Jackie, I like to study all aspects of writing too.

    Jim b

  4. No shortcut? What have I gotten myself into? Love your posts, James O. Like Robert H., you inspired me.

  5. love your posts, James O. Like our JW, I have cut and pasted certain parts of your how to write a novel essays. And I liked the quotes about the writer's gym and cross training. You are an inspiration to us all.

    Thanks for sharing your tips on writing,