A man walked into a bar.
“Writing a novel is easy, right?” he asked. “I have this story I want to write. Tell me where to start?”
Okay, maybe it wasn’t a bar, but a table at a book fair. I gave him the advice I heard from someone once. “The beginning is easy. What comes next is hard,” I said.
“Huh,” he said.
“First, you need to get a license. Do you have one?”
“The Department of Creative Writing,” I told him. “Each state capital has one, or province if you live in Canada. You have to pass a test. The written part is the hardest,” I added.
“I had no idea,” he said again, starting to sound repetitious.
I’m sure he didn’t get my joke about the written part.
OK, the conversation didn’t go exactly like that. Still, we’ve all had one close to that. We’ve been asked where we get our ideas. Is it hard? How long does it take to write a novel?
I would be lost without my imaginary friends and enemies. With my first novel, I was fortunate to meet Alec, telling me his story that chronicled a journey to Spain to fight in a war in 1937. His was a story filled with personal loss and disillusionment. It was going to be a test of his firmly held beliefs.
The next story came to me from Josh. He thought he had found a shortcut to fame, that writing his novel would be easy. Sometimes when something comes easy, the price comes later, and can be expensive.
In my third novel, Sean’s story began when he found out he wasn’t even Sean. Drawn to the truth about his family roots, he finds himself facing a feeling of revenge, something he thought he was above.
Finally Matt’s is my latest BFF. He wants to expose the truth behind the curtain, a conspiracy. Mostly, he wants to stay alive if he does. Not only was he the perfect character to tell the story about the CleanSweep conspiracy, his story continues in the sequel. Look for that sequel summer of 2017
There’s a drawer full of notes, other characters waiting in line to tell me their stories. If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. We don’t need a license. We have a compelling urge to tell stories.
I think they all have something in common. They are characters waiting to tell a good story well.
Writing is all about imagination, putting the words to paper, editing, and more editing
- It starts with imagination. Some idea of a storyline tugs at us. We begin to imagine the characters. We give them shape and voice. We put them in danger and then try to get them out of trouble. We tend to do that a lot in a novel. The story tends to take a lot of detours to the end. Sometimes the danger is from other characters. Sometimes the danger comes from Nature, a hurricane maybe. Sometimes the danger is from the inside, a serious character flaw. In the remarkable stories I read, it sometimes has all three of those elements. Whew.
- I mentioned the beginning is easy. The hard part is what follows. The toil of writing. We might have fun at the start and find it exciting toward the ending. It’s that part in the middle I find hardest.
- Toil, sweat, sweat, and more toil. The wastebasket holds all the false starts and dead-ends if you use a typewriter. File icons serve that purpose for us ‘puter types.
- I ask my fellow writers if they find it as hard as I do to “let go.” I sometimes fall deeply in love with my words and need a real kick in the backsides to let the unnecessary ones go. A writing coach told me, “if in doubt, leave it out.” Hard to do. Hard to do.
When is the story finished? How long should a novel be? When I enter the last period, and I’ve done my best telling my character’s story, it time to quit. Then it’s time for the sweaty stuff, editing. Ignore editing at your own peril. I still shudder to look at one of my novels and see Chapter Thirteer. Oh well.
Pay for editing if you can afford it. It’s worth every penny per word. Two edits for content and a third for copy would be great. If not, pour over it again and again. I’ve rushed the process at my own peril and ended up with that chapter “Thirteer” I mentioned. Ouch.
Why do we do it then? That’s the easy question to answer. “Because we have to.”
Tell me about your writing experiences.