Monday, February 13, 2017

Starting the First Novel

QUESTION:  I have an idea for my story, the characters, and most of the plot, but I’m afraid to start, and I really want to.  What’s my problem?

Thirty-five odd years ago, I finally decided it was time to begin writing that novel I'd always wanted to write.  I started out with more advantages than the average writer.  I'd taken writing courses in college, I'd written poetry and short stories for years, and I'd been an English major.

Those first hundred pages were nearly impossible for me. I felt like I was writing it in my own blood.  Everything I'd ever learned about writing seemed to have vanished from my brain, and I struggled just to get words down on the page to tell the story I wanted to tell. I had absolutely no confidence in myself as a writer.  

Then about six months into writing and a fourth of a way through the novel, something clicked inside me, and I realized I could do  this.  My confidence came back, and the story began to pour out of me onto the page.  I finished the novel in under six weeks.  

Yes, the novel had major problems, my craft stunk, and the novel wasn't remotely publishable, but I'd finished it. I began to rewrite it using what I'd learned as I wrote. The novel has never been published, but few first novels are or should be published.  They are practice rounds.  

Without the Internet and all those online classes and experts as well as critique partners that we have now, I had to struggle to figure out my craft on my own, and my first sold book was my seventh.  

The point is that most writers struggle with the writing. It takes work and courage to put words on the page.  It takes even more work to make your craft competent. But you have to start somewhere.  

Write the story and don't worry if it's not good enough. Rewriting can take care of the flaws.  Teaching courses and good critique partners can hone your craft.

If you have to write and have to tell the characters' stories, then the work is more than worth it.

Here's a favorite quote from Nora Roberts who has written a zillion books, all of whom hit the bestseller lists.

"I'm just starting [a new book] and the battle has already begun.  I don't think they ever go smoothly. It's work. It should be work.  It should be hard work. I think if you sort of sit around and wait to be inspired, you're probably going to be sitting there a long time. My process is more about crafting, working an idea through my head to see if it's a good concept." Nora Roberts in an interview with the "Hagerstown Herald-Mail."

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