how to write a novel in a year
This guy Chuck Wendig gives great advice. As someone who is trying to transmogrify into a full-time writer,, with the publication of my debut novel Leaving the Pack, I know that it’s hard to fit any actual writing into the few hours I have between when my wife leaves for work and I have to go collect our child from the crèche. Cooking food and cleaning up after lunch saps time, and as for cleaning the house properly, I consider myself defeated. Television watching used to be something we did together. Now one watches to wind down after a day job while the other writes despite being tired, too.
Nevertheless, when it comes to getting a novel written I don’t know if this particular piece of advice is hugely necessary, despite the fact that it does, indeed energise potential writers to actually become a writer, by writing. It might get someone to see that the novel is not an unscaleable mountain, but at the same time, if someone really wants to write, they’ll get their few hundred words done at some stage during the day. They’ll decide not to go for that walk on a Saturday morning, to tap away while their spouse has an afternoon nap on Sunday, type up the notes they wrote on the bus that morning while the family is watching nonsense television.
Writing is a hobby for most of us, before it becomes a job. At least it was for me. There was no pressure to write. It was a pleasure. There were off days, of course, and many moments of wondering whether there was any point in wasting time writing (yes, I said that) my substandard stuff when I could be reading good stuff instead. Writing is a bastard hobby for taking time away from other cool hobbies. How much easier is it to watch good TV and keep up with the facebook commentary.
But I kept being drawn back to it, kept plugging away and writing thousand words here, five hundred words there, expanding notes scribbled while on a park bench. I looked forward to airplane rides and long layovers just so I could be alone with my writing pad and my computer. Three hours in an airport lounge was bliss.
For me the real pain in the arse was sending out submissions. That was an activity I had to force myself to do, had to have a completely free morning to get done. The rejections came in after two weeks or three months, some a standard PFO and some pleasantly encouraging. They still come in, but there are more of them, now that I have decided to try become a full time writer, I spend more time sending out stuff.
But I never stopped writing stuff. In the twenty or so years I’ve been an adult, I’ve finished five novels, a long play and a sitcom. OK, so two of the novels are short – 30k kids book which is for just the wrong age for everybody though they love it, and a 60k YA book that nearly got accepted until the editor changed companies and the replacement wasn’t as interested. I will self publish these eventually if I don’t see anyone wanting them, because I just discovered that the sending out submissions forever is no longer necessary. Definitely drawering these is not an option I need to consider.
I was unaware that self-publishing had become so easy until after I eventually found my first contract. It’s ironic in one sense, but I had never considered self-publishing at all before, because I didn’t want to just put out something that was shite. I wrote for a hobby. If my story was bad, then so be it. I might berate myself for wasting time I could have used to read, but I didn’t need to worry about having a ton of books in my spare room that even friends were embarrassed to have on their bookshelves. I needed someone in the business to tell me my work was worth publishing. Now that someone has (way to go Tirgearr Publishing!) I can more confidently put out other stuff that is not quite to their, or other publishers’ specifications. I suppose that’s the problem with writing for a hobby, for oneself instead of writing “what people want to read”: you’re left with a few novels that aren’t seen as very sellable. But how many great novels were in that category, until they weren’t? Now that it’s possibly no longer just a hobby, though, I’m totally writing what people want to read!