Or How to Write a Novel When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing
Remember last December when I crowed about having written a novel? I am officially an expert now, so pay attention, any of you who are not connected with the writing business in any way, shape or form. But everyone else follow along with the lessons, as I bring my novel into best-seller-dom (best-seller-hood?).
Raise your hand if this has ever happened: you are at a party and for lack of any better conversational topics (or maybe it’s just insecurity-induced anxiety) you start to tell stories about your crazy family. At the end of a particularly unbelievable* story about your grandmother, her cats and the Cuban gardener she has imprisoned, your listener says, “You should write a book!”
“All the time,” you say!
“Well, what’s stopping you? Write the damn book already!”
“What’s stopping me,” you say, “is I have no idea how to write a book. I mean I can tell a funny anecdote under the influence of a glass of wine or three, but write a book?”
We all have stories to tell, and word on the street is that everyone has a book in them, but not everyone actually has the skillz, and of those that do, only a handful actually become best sellers.
But don’t let that stop you! I sure didn’t, so follow along with me and I’ll get you all ready to participate in the next NaNoWriMo way ahead of the game.
Step 1: Write a novel.
This is the easiest step, so no whining here. That’ll come later.
I had a general idea of my story and named some of the characters — random name generator is awesome — before I started, but apparently even that is not necessary.
Open the document software of your choice (I like Google Docs), sit down at a typewriter (use Google images if you don’t know what that is) or grab a pencil and some paper.
If you need structure and a deadline, write your novel in November with millions of other people and win a fantastic certificate that you can print out at home if you manage to churn out at least 50,000 words in said month. Oh, and a cute little badge for your blog.>>>
Do not worry about coherency. In fact, according to author Anne Lamott, every first draft is a shitty first draft, so there you go. I used that reminder in a footer on every page of my (shitty) first draft. [She writes this somewhere in Bird by Bird.]
After typing (or handwriting) “The End”…
Step 2: Put your novel away
Yes. Backup your files, put your spiral notebooks in a safe deposit box, whatever, but DO NOT LOOK AT IT. For at least 4 weeks.
If you wrote it entirely in November, this is pretty easy because you have done nothing to prepare for any of the end of the year stuff that happens (i.e., buy Christmas presents, finish your end of the year work projects, clean your house, etc) and you will not have time to even contemplate reading it. But you can brag about being a novelist at holiday parties without lying.
That’s enough for this lesson. Come back in a few days for Lesson 2 so I can tell you what else you should be doing while your novel is marinating.