Monday, November 30, 2015

How to Write a Novel; Tips for Writers

Am I qualified to tell you how to write a novel? Technically I am, I just finished my third novel, all three having been written over the last six years during separate NaNoWriMo challenges.

My novels have never been published. I've never even gone back to read them after completion. I know the first one is bad. It was a zombie survival book before zombie survival was the big fad. I wrapped up the entire story in twelve-thousand words. The only problem is that to 'win' NaNoWriMo' you need fifty-thousand words. I remember the first twelve-thousand words fairly well, the rest of the words are not as clear. I know a go-cart race was involved though.

I finished that novel by committing to writing everyday. Some days were bad and other days were worse. I never felt good about my writing, often times it bordered on miserable. I'd usually settle for just okay. But I had to write because I was committed. One word at a time, I marched to the goal. I marched through Thanksgiving too.

I don't typically get writers block. For the first novel I wrote whatever was in my head. For the next novel, two years later, I was prepared. I had an outline, I knew the basic story, and it was a lot easier. I finished in three weeks. I hope the writing was better than the first one, and it probably is but I still wouldn't consider it good. It was definitely easier to write. The lows weren't as low and the highs were just as high.

I've spent less time obsessing over getting 
things just right and instead write.

This year marks my third novel. I liken it to a marathon. In my best years I've written twenty five or so short stories, usually under two-thousand words. When I've completed NaNoWriMo, I write more words in a month than I do all year. Like a marathon, I imagine, each time gets easier. This year, dare I say, has actually been fun. I've spent less time obsessing over getting things just right and instead write. I know this novel isn't good, but I do think it's my best one yet. It has the bones of a story, I just need to flesh it out. Once I got past forty-thousand words I started accumulating notes over how I should have set up the book to bring home the payoffs at the end.
If I ever go back to edit this book, I'll have a lot of work. My writing wasn't always neat and clean. Oftentimes it was words spewed onto a page late at night as I marched towards the goal.

I don't know if I'll ever publish a novel. I had a goal to self-publish a collection of short stories, but that's still in progress.

So what is my advice? How do you write a novel? Write one word at a time. Set goals and meet those goals. Don't worry about the overarching plot, don't worry about good grammar or mistakes. Just write.

Any activity you want to do takes effort and time. Put in the effort and over time it will get easier. Put in the time and the effort will be easier. Just start, one small step at a time.
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