i’ve finished writing a novel. a few people have asked advice. i will make another post about what the hell i plan on doing with it, because… i have no idea! i think i’ve decided to go the old-fashioned route and send it to literary agents rather than self-publish (for now), consequently, probably building an even fuller rejection folder.
this post was inspired by an email conversation i’m currently having with n. ian mccarthy. who btw, is awesome.
before you decide to read this post, i need to present a full disclaimer: i have no idea what i’m talking about, and i am not fishing for any advice / personal opinions, although, advice / personal opinions aren’t necessarily uninvited. i am also not saying that i am any kind of expert, because trust me, i am nothing near an expert at anything. except maybe avoiding conversations in public.
writing a novel is not easy for anybody, least of all me. i am a full-time mother of twins, and when i say full-time, i mean full-time. i am pulled in two directions, and sometimes even three or four. my life isn’t unicorns and maidens, or power-lifting like some twin moms try to make it unrealistically seem to be. i am also a veteran with fucked up mental and physical health. most of you have read my ‘about me’ and already know this shit. i heavily procrastinated in creating this post because there’s a part of me that detests revealing anything about myself. and yet, there’s another that knows its freeing to do so, at least, to an extent. i believe in discussing what’s relevant, and it was relevant to reveal those few facts about me and which ever ones are forthcoming, because it will give you an idea of the odds working against me (which i might even impose mostly against myself) and how it’s still possible for you to do it (write a novel) too. this isn’t a pissing contest. i’m not saying my life is tough and that you ‘should’ be able to find the time to write a book. everyone’s fucking life is tough. and it isn’t about finding the time, it’s about wanting to do it.
but i want to do it! you may say. but do you, really? or do you want to write the best, most immaculate novel, ever, and then end up scaring yourself into procrastination? if you’re anything like me, then you’ve answered with a quiet pause, perhaps even glanced off to the side realizing that’s exactly what you’ve done.
i’ve scared myself into procrastination for years, because i wanted to write a great novel, too. i still have half written novels sitting around, because i was trying to make them perfect and lost interest. if you want to write a ‘great’ novel, you will never start writing. you need to just want to write ‘A’ novel and start there. i resolved to writing ‘A’ book, because i knew i could keep on writing novels if i wanted to. you can work toward a magnum opus, or your favorite novel. most of the time, an authors personally favorite work is not the favorite of the public.
fuck grammar, if you’re strict with yourself about grammar, maybe that’ll be cool with you, but it wasn’t for me. i actually wrote mine in a format similar to lauren groff or cormac mccarthy. i didn’t add ” ‘s to conversations until after, and the book i’m going to start work on now will not have them whatsoever. the reason an author usually leaves quotations is because it causes a splitting, kinda interrupts the thoughts. if you don’t mind it, go right ahead. but for me, it helped not having to worry about that.
do not edit until you’re done. then you can reread your whole book, chapter by chapter and decide if you should add more detail, another chapter, maybe even another plot point, or change something completely.
if you do not cry while you are writing (at times), you are not tapping into something deep enough. dig deeper.
i did not use music, because i couldn’t. most of the time while writing this novel i had my kids asleep in the next room. i could’ve used headphones, but eh.
i am taking the rest of my advice straight from an email:
here’s my advice on writing a novel, or even beginning to write one. this might not work for everybody, but it did for me and i wrote mine in under a year.
first of all, use the format you’re ready to dump the most information with. i wanted third person, but ended up telling the story in first person. i hate first person usually, but that’s just how the story told itself.
second, think of the thing you fear the most… something that you can really speculate on and overanalyze. it could be anything you’re afraid of. a dysfunctional life, murder, shit, even fuckin vampires, who cares. fear is a good motivator. my book is about a woman whose daughter was killed, and she goes to find him and kill him (the killer.) i have two daughters—so you see where i used that fear. and then the book writes itself because it is a surreal, fucked up autobiography of a speculative alternative reality. i didn’t even plan the chapters. as i went along, i realized that obstacles come themselves. i usually do keep a loose list of what happens in a chapter. an example being:
(chapter) 1. sees dead body.
(chapter) 2. goes to funeral.
very simple, and yet it turns out to be a chapter.
i have more advice than this, now that i’ve had some time to think about it.
re-read your favorite book, or buy a book you love by somebody who writes the way you wish that you could and makes you feel like writing. i read several books while writing my novel. these days, you can download a book on your phone and read it before bed like i usually have to.
have conversations with people in public. I KNOW! I’M A HYPOCRITE BUT HEAR ME OUT… real dialogue is the best dialogue, unless you can have a great conversation with yourself. i spend so much time in my own mind, that i can.
include some of your own (disguised / veiled) experiences and memories, that way your protagonist is a fucked up you, as mentioned above, in another reality.
keep notes on your phone when you’re daydreaming about your story. i did. did i use them all? no. most of them will be deleted, but it’s good to think of as many ideas as possible.
if you’re writing something where characters are going to intersect, plan the chapters out with numbers. it helped me figure out the best pace to introduce them.
in conclusion, there’s no conclusion to my ‘advice’ in fact, if i think of more tips, i’ll post them. especially as i attempt to figure out where to publish my own book(s).
the novel i’ve just written, as mentioned above, is about a woman who’s seeking out the killer of her daughter, to kill him. obviously, other shit happens. it is provisionally titled ‘stars, but no heaven’ which i stole from my homeboy s.k. nicholas. i’m sticking with that title for now, unless, when it comes time to make a cover, the words don’t work.
speaking of titles that don’t work, my poetry book was initially going to be called ‘those nocturnal hours’ but that didn’t quite work with the cover. it ended up being titled ‘six red seeds’ instead, and i’m waiting the few weeks to allow amazon to make the picture look less stupid and for there to be a preview. i also don’t understand this kindle shit, but i think you can do both at the same time, unless you want it printed by KDP, in which case, you can’t use create space. i’ll figure it out later.
also? i am not going to tell anyone to buy it. it is all content that you can get for free here on my blog, except like, maybe 3 poems and a personal introduction.
the second book i’m starting, and, wish me luck because i am going to be attending school full time, so who knows when it’ll be finished, is called ‘dust’ and will follow some disorderly characters and their struggle for survival in the great depression.
i may submit to a few more short story calls for anthologies, but we’ll see.
i am going to start posting an excerpt from each chapter of my novel. there are… 30? i believe, chapters. i probably won’t be putting them chronologically, and some chapters may even be skipped.
keep in mind, i am not saying i wrote something great. 😉
please make me stop typing now.