The words are ironic, and bleed of truth. Any writer will tell you that. And though every writer has their own techniques, and sources of motivation, I think many would agree that the most daunting part of the process is simply beginning something new. And for those novice writers who dream of one day bringing their unseen words to a larger audience, beginning can seem only slightly less impossible than actually finishing their first novel.
I would guess that writing a novel is something many people have on their "bucket lists." Whether it's their own memoir, or this "great idea" they've had since high school. Or maybe just a genuine urge to write everything that floats through their mind. I can relate. I've been a lover of writing for as long as I knew how to. I find the simplest pleasure in making a grocery list. It's simply that when it's "in" you, it has to come out, one way or the other.
So, as a new writer myself, having finished her first novel in October of 2009, I can at the very least offer my experience in the process of making the "dream" into reality. I'm no different or extraordinary than anyone else - I was a girl with an idea for a novel, and not sure how to go about starting it. The longest piece of writing I'd accomplished prior to Pieces was my college history thesis. And I usually consult an "Idiot's Guide" for these sorts of things, but this was different. This was innate. And I had to pursue it, regardless of my worries and fears. So here's how it happened:
First - I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea
This step comes in many shapes and forms. For some people, they've been "writing" a novel for the better part of a decade, and for others, they see a movie or read a book and get inspired. But in all cases, it starts with an idea.
Second - I spent time free writing
This was vital. Just writing, in the middle of the night. Completely wired. Laptop blasting a blue glow in my face. Just write. The beginning, the end, the middle. Any chapter, scene, or sentence that happens to move you. It is so important you form a connection with your first book in someway. It's like, making it real - injecting it into your veins. You need to feel the writing, and not just approach it in a clinical, mechanical way. It will fall flat, and two-dimensional, if you don't bond with your story.
Third - I Outlined and Organized
They say that success is better achieved when you make a series of smaller, reachable goals, instead of one big one. This difference is huge, and can mean utter failure, or unimaginable success. You don't just climb to the top of Mt. Everest without a second thought. You learn about climbing. You get into shape. You buy the equipment. You practice climbing. You network with other climbers. You make climbing a lifestyle. Then you book the trip. And you work your way to the top using all of your learned expertise.
Writing is no different. We've all heard of the stories where best-selling writers come out of obscurity with a solid gold story, never having tried to publish before, and making history with their untouchable bestsellers. But, I think it's safe to say most writers struggle for a while, work their way up, marketing themselves, self-publishing, gaining an audience, snagging an agent, and gambling everything on their careers. And similar to this process is the very process of writing.
There's research, outlining, writing. And don't neglect any step. In my particular case - after some free writing - I wrote a chapter by chapter synopsis of my novel, as I envisioned it, before it was even written. But this helped immensely. It meant the task of writing a novel was reduced to 30 smaller tasks (chapters) - which I was much more easily able to take on. I didn't set any long term goals or dates with any seriousness. I wrote chapter 1. And then chapter 2. And by having outlined everything to begin with, I could even write chapter 10 before I wrote 9.
In the end, it took 5 months - mainly writing in the middle of the night or during my down time. But I was surprised at how easily it progressed when I knew where it was I was headed from the beginning. I imagine that in the end it amounted to much more than if I were to just start writing blindly.
Fourth - I edited once. And then again. And then a third time. When does this editing thing stop?
After you have a full manuscript, it's easy to get lazy, and to be tempted to call it "done" - just because it was such a huge undertaking to begin with. But you must refrain from doing this prematurely. I think I went through, revised and rewrote, my novel four, maybe five full times. And I'm not above admitting even now it might need another. The trick is to have another set of eyes read it - someone you trust, but not someone who you are emotionally attached to. This is a problem. This is like asking your husband if your ass looks fat in your new pair of jeans. Find a person online in the world of writing or publishing that you've created a rapport with, and send them the manuscript if they are so willing. They will be honest. And the truth is, you're going to hate what you hear. You'll be what I have dubbed the "3 D's" - defensive, discouraged, and devastated. It's unavoidable. And if that's how you feel after your first criticism. you're on the right track. It is only then you can take a step back and look at your novel in a light never before seen. The revision will be nothing short of amazing.
Fifth - Market Yourself. And Don't Stop
Whether you're dead set on getting an agent to represent you, or you decide to self-publish, it's integral you promote yourself until people are kind of sick of you. With social networking sites, and all the cheap, or free, options to self-publish, or E-publish, there's no excuse not to get your book out there. This is important to your career as a writer, because - or so I've heard - even bestsellers can fade into obscurity without the proper publicity. And let's be honest, good or bad, if people aren't reading your book at all, it's the ultimate failure.
I hope this was helpful in some way. I am only speaking from experience, as well as the passion I have with writing. And I'm a teacher in my heart - and by college degree - so it's in my blood to help others. I have self-published (in print and as an Ebook) my first novel, and I'm glad I did. I found a good foundation to build a career on, and I am pursing it tenaciously. In closing, I will tell everyone that even while pitching a novel, or promoting a self-published one, never stop writing. Writing is one of those skills that can be sharpened, honed, and improved with practice. Never become stagnate.
Never put down the pen.