Posted in Of Writingly

Of Writing Your First Novel


I’ve decided to give a sort of “pep talk” today in light of the upcoming National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, where many of you will be enthusiastically slogging away to reach the 50,000 word mark of your novel. For many, it will be your first, which is more likely to make the process harder than for others who’ve made it through before. I believe attitude has more to do with helping you through, than the work you are going to put in, and so I hope this post will be helpful for you!

This post is not going to be an actual peppy, numbered how-to though. It is going to be about writing a novel, your first in fact, where you shall get expert advice on how not to go about writing it. If I were tweeting this, I would simply quote the famous Sports philosopher, Nike, and say, Just do it. Short, forceful and really hits the ball home. And yet, not many of us bring this gaming action to our written work. Instead of fluorescent shoes, we need dreary-looking deadlines to make us do it.

While I’ve never been a sportswoman, I have done amateur theatre. It is just like a sport, both in terms of preparation and in execution. You have to keep working on your stuff beyond rehearsals, you really have to hone your muscles right to make your performance of a character as believable as possible. However, a performance night is like a match, where any number of unanticipated things can happen. How you deal with these accidents has less to do with your talents and more to do with your quick-thinking skills. Not so, in the case of writers. If you are quick-thinking, you are probably doing it for deadlines, and you are comforting yourself with the idea that what you write will pass through a number of channels, starting with the editor, until it is shown to the world. With sports and theatre, there are no channels. Whatever happens or does not happen, is entirely to the credit of the sportsman or actor. In such moments of crisis, all they hope for is to be able to keep their jobs afterwards.

There is no other reason for not starting and finishing your first novel other than your need for validation. That word is hiding behind the many façades first timers commonly see as the amateur’s obstacles. And you know what? That word will not go away, no matter how many novels you write. When you say you are lazy, what you are really saying is that you cannot work up enough passion to write what you desire to write, only because you are afraid it may not be good enough. Same answer for when you say you are busy. I am not saying everybody is a novelist. But, here is a test to find out if you are. If your dream of being a novelist has been nagging at you, do either of these: get writing or get over it. If it still nags at you despite your best efforts to get over it, then get writing. And, just do it. There will be plenty of people to tell you it is crap. You don’t need to be the first.

And what happens after you’ve done it? Will that nagging feeling go away? No, it will just metamorphose into something else: dealing with rejection, creative differences with publishers, the overwhelming nature of success and failure etc., etc.. Some of the many façades that validation wears. And yet, you just do it because you tried the option of not doing it and it didn’t work. Some call it the vicious cycle of satiation and frustration, but it actually is called life. Life is not just a bunch of trees and people meditating at sunrise, despite that being a top Google images search result. Life is having desires and trying to fulfil them. Even the yogic principle of being above desire, is a desire. Passions will have spent themselves at some point. And then, it is time for decay and death.

When I look at it, thinking about the randomness of life where I may go off at any moment, I like to believe that I’d rather be a failed, grossly incompetent writer than not at all. I’d rather get those rejection slips and critical brickbats than hold a fear of my word processor. Not doing it is just not an option for me. So, Nike is the way to go.

Do you have any words of wisdom on how to write a first novel?

To read on how one should go about NaNoWriMo, click here.

To add me as your “writing buddy”, click here.

*This is a re-post.


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

4 thoughts on “Of Writing Your First Novel

  1. Just do it has actually become my writing slogan. lol I always set my bar lower Nanowrimo. Past two years I’ve aimed for 20,000 because I chronically overachieve while chronically overworking. Not a productive combo. I’ve long since come to the conclusion that I’m better suited to flash fiction then novellas. Yet every year I toss myself into the fray.

    1. Ha ha! I feel the same. I think I am better with “shorter” writing too. I am trying not to think about it too much. Usually I am a planner, but I’ve only accumulated detailed plans over the years, and not much work. This time, I’ve decided to use my “daydream time” of the day instead and write whatever I like. Probably, the laziest pantser ever! But, it’s the number that matters, to win the challenge. I can sift through it for what it publishable later.
      Thanks for reading! Good luck for NaNo!

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