Sunday, April 21, 2013

My First 6 Years as a Would-Be Novelist

This February marked the sixth anniversary of my dive into novelling after a very long hiatus from writing for career, marriage and motherhood. I've been thinking about what I learned from this ordeal, which has spanned three career changes, a divorce, and the first six years of my son's education. He is starting middle school next fall, I'm starting life over as a single mother, and my book still isn't done.

So what have I learned? I thought I'd have a ropeful of pearls of wisdom for you. I don't. It really just boils down to three things.

1. It's okay not to know what you're doing.

 People kept telling me to trust my instincts and my own process. When you're starting out, you HAVE no instincts nor process. You're watching everyone else and trying to learn as much as you can. That's good! Keep doing it. Eventually you will develop the skill and the know-how to do what you need to do. The writing community is extremely supportive and if you are active on Facebook and comment on blogs, you will make friends who will gladly help you.

2. It takes money, but not as much as you think.

Although you can learn a lot from blogs, networking, writer's groups and such, the broke writer is going to struggle to compete with those who take classes, attend big conferences, and so on. BUT... there are some inexpensive ways to learn. I started out with an adult education class at our regional high school. Later I took a $95 online fiction writing course through the community college that was the best hundred bucks I've ever spent on writing. There are inexpensive local conferences to attend, and even some online workshops you can join for free. Keep your eyes and ears open!

3. Writing is not your life. 

People will tell you that it is, but it's not. Your family, your spiritual life, your day job, your home, your friends, your health... all of these things must be taken care of and are essential to a healthy, productive you. Your novel is not worth losing your marriage or your job (because you stay up till 1 a.m. every night and then screw up at work, for example), nor missing your child's soccer games, nor being so isolated you never talk to anyone IRL. (In Real Life.)  Writing is an essential part of your life, but it must never, ever take over completely. At the end of the day, a fictional hero will not hold you and you still have to do the dishes, the laundry, and cope with piles of tedious work for your boss. Embrace it. It will keep you real and give you more fodder for authentic writing.

Health is the first muse and sleep is its requirement. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have a healthy, productive, restful Sunday, my friends.


  1. These are all lessons I'm learning myself. My first year and a half yeilded 3 books. The first two are trunked until I decide I'm willing to gut them. The third is as close as I've ever come, but life has a way of hurling you sideways off track. I'm confident this is my year to find an ending for my third book.

  2. Same with me. I'm learning now, that putting off real life to write is just not something I can do anymore. The books will come eventually. My daugher is only 8 once.

  3. It's all about seasons of life and of creativity. As I gradually take more control of my time, my energy and my well-being I am certain I will have more energy to write as well. I am learning that because my job is very mentally draining, I need lots of down time on the weekends. Once my ex-to-be moves out, things will be much more peaceful at home as well.

    I should be totally free in about a month. My X2B is moving out in May and we are just waiting now for our final court date to make it all official. Even though it means more evening child care for me... stuff that my husband usually takes care of... emotionally it will be so much better for both my son and myself.

  4. It's always great to read what other "Would-Be Novelists" have experienced along their journey. I've been writing seriously since the summer of 2010. I took two Intermediate Fiction Critique courses at a place called the Lighthouse Writer's Workshop and was pleased with what I learned in 8 short weeks. I've invested some money in developmental editing, but find that the best value comes from finding good beta readers who read in your chosen genre. I now give my readers a 4 page list of questions about my novel. I'm currently working on the 8th draft of my second thriller novel. Perfection takes patience. Good luck to all of you fellow Would-Be Novelists.

  5. Thanks, Bryan and thanks for stopping to comment!


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