Wednesday, October 31, 2012
May the muse be with you
Tomorrow marks the start of November and for many aspiring writers it will be the start of National Novel Writing Month - an excuse to dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to the endeavour of writing a 50,000 word novel in one month. I will always have a soft spot of NaNoWriMo. In 2010 it was the kick in the behind I needed to finish off the novel that would become The Chicken Thief and last year it was the kick off for the sequel. Thus I've felt a sense of symmetry sending out a draft of the sequel to my brave readers to look at, almost a year to the day after I began it. November 2011 seems like a long time ago.
Writing novels is not a career path for those who crave instant gratification.
The first novel took me five years to complete, so taking only a year to have a complete draft feels like progress! Saying it took a year though suggests that I was hunched over my desk for the past twelve months, gradually chipping away at the word count. While I am getting closer to that sort of writing discipline, in reality it was more like mad spurts, followed by staring out a mound of words and wondering how to excavate a story, followed by more writing, and then some plotting, rewriting, vacantly staring into space, sadly wondering whether I would ever write another novel, blasts of inspiration, and more writing. Sometimes too it feels like a lot of sitting around waiting for the story to rise up inside you, be noticed, and then gradually take over your mind.
Writing novels is for those who love a story that works its way into your mind and stays there.
Lately I've been hauling my laptop around with me in order to capitalise on free moments. Sitting in a cafe recently I started to wonder what people think I'm doing, given that I often catch myself making faces relevant to what I'm writing about. Do they see that look of pure hatred on my face and wonder who I'm plotting to kill? I wonder what would happen if you took an MRI of an author's brain while they were thinking about their stories. Would the requisite nodes of their brains light up with the relevant sparks for love, anger, anguish? At a neural level does an author's brain really distinguish been the real world and the created one?
Writing novels is a lonely experience, until you publish.
All the books on self publishing tell you in bubble-bursting detail about the fact that there are few overnight successes, that self-publishing has a long tail, that it takes time to gain traction, that it's about the long haul: something akin to being a cross-country truck driver, scrabbling for your No-Doze in an effort to stay awake. What those books don't tell you is that the long tail is not just a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet, it's a community of readers who find your book and share it with others. It's the person who texts you to tell you they loved the book, it's the person you hear about who passed it on to a friend, who passes it on to their book club. It's one person and then another and another. And every time you hear about another pair of hands your book has found its way into, it touches your heart in a way you could never have imagined.
To those about to embark on the novel writing journey - good luck! (It's worth every minute.)
photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net