From The Archives: Why Writing a Novel is a Good Thing–Even If You Never Get it Published

And here's one final offering from the archives, back in September of 2012.

Yeah, so, you want to write a novel.  And you're even thinking of doing Nanowrimo this year. (Nanowrimo = National Novel Writing Month, just in case you don't know, and it's in November.) 

But then the voices begin:                             

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The dreaded blank page.
The dreaded blank page.

You'll never get published.

Why bother?

It's a waste of time.

You could be doing other things.  Worthy things.

You think you can write?

Who do you think you are to write a novel?

And so on.  I'm sure you know the variations.

But I'm here to tell you otherwise.  To inform you that writing a novel, in and of itself, for no other reason than to do it, is a worthy activity.  It is.  Even if you never get published.  (Which, with all the publishing options we've got these days, you probably will, one way or another.) And here's why:

1.  It's a creative act.  And the world needs as many of these as we can get. Creativity breeds creativity, just as energy breeds energy.  Who knows what spending time writing this novel might lead to?  It might lead to a best-selling novel, or an amazing idea in another area.  And, it doesn't matter if that doesn't happen because the simple act of sitting down to create is important.

2.  Novels change the world, in big ways and in little ways.  Novels deliver stories, which we're hard-wired to accept, and stories change us.  Think of novels with grand, culture-baring themes.  Or remember how you felt the last time you read a small, intimate novel.  It changed you a little, didn't it?  And that's how changing the world happens–one person at a time.

3. Novel writing makes you happy.  At least it makes me happy.  I love it.  And I presume that it will make you happy, too.  Lest you think that happiness is an unworthy goal, remember that none other than the Dalai Lama says that happiness is the point of life.

4.  Writing a novel is an accomplishment.  The first time I finished a novel (it's the one sitting in my office cupboard)I was so amazed at how much oomph it took that I vowed to respect every single book ever written, even the crappiest romance novel.  And I do.  You should too–especially the one you're writing now.

5.  Writing a novel hones your skills.  And remember, getting better at one thing affects the way you do everything.  Improving your novel writing will impact your blog posts.  And your articles.  And your diet.  As the ancients used to say, as above, so below.

6.  Writing a novel helps you understand the world.  To write a novel, you must populate it with characters, and to create characters, you must understand people.  And, guess what?  People are what make our world go around.  Writing a novel helps you understand them.

7. It's your deepest, most heartfelt desire.  Don't let that desire go unanswered.  Go do it already. 

Here's what I recommend: create your own list of reasons to write a novel.  Name it the Novel-Writing Manifesto, or something a bit less grandiose.  Post it next to your computer.  Read it often–especially after something has shaken your confidence.  It'll snap you right back into a novel-writing space.

What are your reasons for writing a novel (or any project)? Do you use them to steer yourself back on course?

And if you'd like help with your novel-writing effort, remember my Get Your Novel Written Now Class begins in October!

Links Round-Up: Nanowrimo

While I am out, I'm posting link round-ups of various sorts.  I looked at the calendar and realized, Nanowrimo is a little over a month away! (If you don't know what Nanowrimo is, you probably won't be interested in these links.  But for the record, it is National Novel Writing Month, wherein you write at 50,000 word novel in a month.)

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Here are some articles I'm published on the topic through the years:

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Nanowrimo

Writing Beginnings: Nanowrimo, Day One, A Story About Sometimes

Nanowrimo Prep

Writing Inspiration, Whether You Are Nanowrimo-ing Or Not

There's a Reason Nanowrimo is Held in November

8 Essential Tools for Book Writing (Just in Time for Nanowrimo)

Writing Every Morning

And hey, if you feel like you'd like a little support for the novel writing, and some help prepping for Nanowrimo, consider my Get Your Novel Written Now Class, coming up in October.

Image by ktylerconk.  It's a quote from Henry David Thoreau, on a plaque at the New York City public library.

From The Archives: Love Yourself, Love Your Writing

Here's one from the archives for you:

We're awfully hard on ourselves, our own worst enemies.   At least I am!  And I suspect I'm not  Heart_light_blackground_518497_hso different from other creatives: I'm judgmental of myself –hyper critical at the best of times.  My thoughts run all over:

  • That thing I just said?  How idiotic!
  • What a lump for not speaking up.
  • Oh god, I look bad today!

And when it comes to my writing, it's even worse, because the voices are so insidious and ingrained.  It is such a familiar thought pattern that sometimes I don't even notice it.  When I do, it runs something like this:

  • This work isn't good enough.
  • Is that the right word? You idiot, that's not the right word.
  • They're not going to like it.
  • It's not good enough to sell.

And so on and so forth.  I'm sure you can add some of your own to the list!  (And let me be perfectly clear here–there is a difference between unloving critical thoughts and loving critical thoughts–the latter help us hone our skills, rewrite until the work shines, and strive for excellence.)

Do you know anybody who is as openly judgmental and critical as the voice in your head?  I don't.  If I spent all day every day with someone as condemning  as the voice in my head, I'd be physically withered at the end of the day.  And yet, that's exactly what's happening in our brains.

The solution?  Try turning love on it.  Warning: this is not easy.  And if you're successful at it, the practice will change your life.  Also, it's a process–you have to keep going back at it over and over again.  You have to consistently apply it to your life and your writing.

So herewith is a process to apply to self-judgment:

1.  Become aware.  Pay attention to those nasty little comments flinging about your brain.

2.  Fight back.  Sometimes called denials, this is when instead of cowering under the onslaught of all those vicious words, you make a stand and refuse to accept them.  Mentally uttering "That thought I do not want" (a Course in Miracles saying) is one way to do this.

3.  Form a new thought.  And then love bomb your brain with it, constantly, all day, and especially every time the old thought comes up.  Maybe something like:

  • I am powerful.  (My writing is powerful.)
  • I am enough.  (My writing is enough.)
  • I am a creator.
  • Whatever thought works for your individual circumstance.

The idea being to let thoughts like these become the constant soundtrack running in the background.  I know it's woo-woo, and it's ever so much more pleasant to think this way than the other.

4. It might get worse before it gets better.  Because old negative thoughts don't go without a fight.  And one way they fight is to get stronger when they fear being eradicated. But don't fall for their devious plan.

5.  Stick with it.  As I said, this process takes time.  Those fearful thoughts didn't get there overnight.  They lodged in your brain over a lifetime. 

 What do you think?  Willing to give it a try?  Or do you have another technique for quieting that voice?  Please comment.

 Photo by Victory to the People.

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #49

Happy Fourth of July to those of you in the United States!  I hope you have all the freedom as a writer that you desire.  Here is the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog.  Have a wonderful day and be careful whatever you do!  (It is so hot here and has been for so long that it is dry, dry, dry and everyone is hoping people restrain themselves with the fireworks.) 

#337  She liked change.  She liked changing her wardrobe, rearranging her furniture, changing her job.  But most of all she like changing husbands.  However, this time ….. 

#338  Huh.  It was so puzzling.  She could have sworn she hadn’t forgotten to do that, but apparently she had.  

#339  The woman started down the path into the forest, then turned, smiled, and beckoned him to follow.

#340  What is the one thing your main character (or you) cannot live without?

#341  When the sun rose that morning and lit the landscape, it revealed what the dark of night had not showed. 

#342  In the United States, today is Independence Day.  What does freedom mean to your main character? What are the ways they are free? What are the ways they are not free? 

Are you celebrating today?  How's your writing going?

Should You Write Every Day?

HappywritingI was at a gathering of writers last night (Portlanders, we meet every last Monday of the month for Literary Libations, join us) and Angela Sanders, an accomplished mystery writer who is doing very well with her books (can you say number one on all Kindle sales?) was talking about her career.

Angela talked about how she does very little social media, sends one newsletter out a month (subscribe here, its definitely worth it), and beyond that, "I write every day."

Because–that's the most important thing.

Writing.  

As often as humanly possible.

And yes, while writing in a journal, or writing a blog post, or ad copy for your next class, or whatever, is all terribly important, when we talk about writing every day, we're talking about writing on that project of yours.  You know the one–the novel that keeps you awake at night.  The one where the characters keep doing things that delight you.  The one you have in your head.  Or hopefully in a collection of notes carefully stored somewhere.

So, how important is it to write every day?

Well, I think its every thing.  Every damn thing.  I do.  I believe that writing every day is what we should all strive for.

But people scowl at me when I say this.  They throw things, like rotten apples, at me.  They yell and scream.  Okay, maybe they don't really, but I can see by the look in their eyes that they are wishing they could.  Because they really don't want to write every freaking day.

And that is what it really boils down to.  Whether or not you actually want to write.

I'm sorry, but that's the plain, hard truth of the matter.  (And for the record, I'm lecturing myself here as much as anybody.)  Once, years ago, I read something that bears on this.  I believe it was in a Julia Cameron book.  She said something to the effect that if a man is in love with you, no matter if he's the busiest executive in the world, he'll find time to call you.

So, ahem.  If you're in love with your writing (and you should be) you will freaking find time to do it, even a little, even if you're just thinking about it, every day.

And here's a little tip to help you do it every day:

At the above-mentioned Happy Hour wherein we discussed every aspect of writing, one of my most favorite writers (and human beings) in the whole world piped up and said she'd been writing every day.  

Gasp.  This required a huge gulp of wine to process.  Because Jenni, (who is likely reading this and rolling her eyes) has not written for months.  This has been the cause of much consternation and hand-wringing between my biz partner Debbie and I, because Jenni is a damn good writer, writing a really fun mystery.

So to hear her announce that she was now writing regularly again was amazing.  And we found out her secret, which is…..

Write for ten minutes a day.

C'mon, everyone can find ten minutes.  And the bigger trick to this is that once you start writing, you often look up and realize that an hour, not ten minutes has gone by and you've really not felt like stopping.

So, the moral of the story is that, yes, I do think every one should write every day if at all possible and that really, everything will fall into place for us all if we just write as often as possible.  

Please share what you think in the comments!

Image by Jem.

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #35

Here's the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog (minus one, because I forgot to do one on Sunday).

#240 She sat up quickly.  She forgot!  She had totally forgotten about it!  

#241  What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?  Write about it.  Work details can enliven fiction.

#242  Your character’s eating habits tell a lot about him.  Write about them.  Does he drive through McDonald’s every day for breakfast?  Cook lavish meals at home? Dine in the finest restaurants? 

#243  Doing new things is hard.  It is also brain-expanding.  What have you (or your main character) done that is new and different lately?

#244  TGIF.  What does your main character like to do on Friday night?  Date night? Stay home and watch a movie? Go to Happy Hour with friends? Get in bed early and read?

#245  Water.  Are you (or your character) afraid of it or do you revel in it?  Good swimmer or dog paddler?

 How is your writing going?  Do prompts help you write?

 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #30

Here's my weekly round-up of writing prompts from my Tumblr blog:

#205 The fog wafted and drifted around buildings and through streets, masking and silencing everything in its path.  So it was a shock when it lifted and…..

#206 Today is President’s Day in the United States, and lot of people (but not all) have the day off.  What holidays does your main character take?  What does she or he do on those holidays?

#207 Waiting….waiting….waiting…Was it worth the wait? Or not?

#208  Some people fear spiders, but snakes don’t bother them.  Others are the opposite—they hate snakes, but spiders are fine.  Which way does your main character fall?  What does this say about him/her?

#209 Procrastination.  Does your main character indulge in it?  How does it affect his life? How does he get himself going again?

#210 Certain objects may hold great significance for us.  They can contain memories, remind us of loved ones, act as talismans against evil, or connect us to our creativity.  Does your main character have a special object she loves? What does it represent to her?

#211 Oh, the glory of it all.

Happy writing! What are you working on?  

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #29

Happy Valentine's Day! Here is the latest round-up of prompts from my Tumblr blog. Write like the wind, people!

#198 She landed with a thud.  And when she looked up at where she had come from, it seemed a very long ways to go.  How would she get herself back?

#199 "You just have to suck it up and get through it," he said.

"But how? Because with ____________ happening, I don’t see how I can __________."

Fill in the blanks and use the sentences as the basis of a scene.

#200 What is your main character most afraid of? Write a scene with him/her experiencing that exact thing.

#201 As if February, with its constant snow ,wasn’t bad enough on its own, there was also all the hoopla leading up to Valentine’s Day. She hated it because it reminded her that she was single. And that reminded her of the horrible memory of…….

#202 The way we eat and cook tells a lot about ourselves—and our characters.  Does your protagonist drive through McDonald’s for lunch every day? Or insist that everything she eats is organic and GMO-free? Does she like to cook or hate it? Who does she most often eat with?

Write about your main character preparing a meal and then eating it.

#203  Please help.  Because ……

#204 Ah, love.  What role does it play in your main character’s life?  Does she have lots of it, long for more of it, or rue the day she ever fell in love in the first place?

 That's it!  Happy writing! Are you thinking about love this week?  Writing about it?

 

 

 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #27

Here is the weekly collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog.  Have at it!

#183  "To whom much is given, much is expected."  How does this manifest in your character’s life, or is she one to whom not much has been given?  If so, how does this affect her? How would her life be different if she had been given a lot?

#184  She chased the rabbit through the forest and it lead her to something she never expected.

#185 This poor prompt was lost in the ether somewhere.  Not sure what happened to it.  So write about something that was lost.

#186  Marker, stone, grub, reporter.  Use them in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#187  "Let’s not do that," he said.  "Instead, let’s….."

#188 Angie sat down with a plop, gravity having her way with her.  And that was when she knew it was time to…..

#189  One day when I was out walking, I found a small white bowl, perfectly usable for cereal.  Later on that same walk, I found a small green toy frog that squeaked.  Write about something you’ve found.

#190  A thing we used to discuss as kids (or at least I did, but perhaps I'm just weird): freeze to death or die of heat exhaustion, which would you prefer?  

 And tomorrow is February, can you believe that?  Where did this month go?  Did you get some good writing done during January?

 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #25

Here is the latest collection of posts from my Tumblr blog.  There's more prompts here.  And you can download a whole book of them here.  Oh yeah, and there's one less prompt than usual because last Sunday we drove to Seattle and back (eight hours total in the car) to attend the 100th birthday party of my husband's aunt.  It was a glorious day, reconnecting with cousins and visiting with said aunt.  But I totally forgot about doing a prompt.

#171  He hated when he overslept.  Because, there was nothing you could do about it—that time was lost.  Lost to sleep.  So to make sure it never happened, he….

#172  It was a crushing disappointment.  What does your main character do to recover?

#173  Use the words hoar frost, purple, poem and beast in a sentence.  Then use that sentence as a prompt.

#174  "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."  Annie Dillard. How does your main character spend his/her days?

#175  Write about the resolution your character has kept.  Now write about the resolution he/she has broken.  Why does he want to accomplish those things in the first place?  What stands in the way of her doing them?

#176 She was tired.  So tired.  And she dealt with being tired the way she always did.  First, she …..

How did you writing go this week? (I'm almost done with the rewrite of my WIP!)