I Want To Write A Novel

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Every quarter at my work place, I have to sit down with my manager and map out my working goals for the coming months. All the different tasks I think I will be working on over the next three months will be written down with measurables placed beside them as a tool to track my progress and make sure I’m actually doing my job.

Every quarter, we also discuss any personal goals to be put in this plan. Almost every quarter, I fail these goals which have been the same for quite a while. The main goal? Write more outside of work.

As my day job in communications involves me writing a heck of a lot, by the time I get home from work my brain is fried and I often feel like I can barely string a sentence together. Instead of writing, I plonk myself  down in front of the television and tune out. Occasionally I’ll pick up a book and read for a while and that’s generally as far as it goes.

Lately I’m really dissatisfied with this approach to my life and for one simple reason: by the time I’m 30, I would like to write a novel.

With just over five years to go, it’s starting to feel like an overwhelming and often impossible dream. If I’m being completely honest with you and with myself, I feel stuck. I want to write a novel but I don’t have a clue of where to begin as I don’t have ‘the idea’. Through dreams or random thoughts I have sentences come to me, but it usually doesn’t go beyond a single line.

I’ve read article after article of interviews with authors where they often say the idea for their novel came to them while they were asleep or daydreaming (oh how I wish Harry Potter came to me while I was sitting on a train). Many share the advice of ‘practice makes perfect’ where they emphasise the importance of setting aside time each week, or each day where possible, to write and that the ideas flow from there.

While I actively search for advice from authors I admire, it ends up being quite fruitless for while I read their advice, I very rarely take it. My laziness in writing has me at a standstill.

There are so many things that I am scared of; one of the biggest is that my dream of becoming a published author may never happen, that I may float through life telling people that yes I would like to write a novel some day, I’m just waiting for the right idea and the idea will never come. I’m scared that this is something I will fail at; something within my control that I let slip through my fingers. I no longer care if I don’t write a novel by the time I’m 30 just as long as I write one before I die.

I could list all the excuses as to why I haven’t written a novel yet—which I have already partly done—but what’s become blatantly obvious to me of late is that I am the only reason I haven’t written a novel; not my circumstances but me.

I don’t want to write a novel in order to become a famous author (though wouldn’t that be nice!). I want to write a novel because I feel like I have a story to tell, something to share even if I can’t articulate what that story is just yet. I love the power of the written word, the way it can help to broaden your imagination and allow you to escape into different worlds and realities. I love the way a well written book can make you feel, whether that be sad, hopeful, or evoke the feeling of writer’s envy.

I love that there are some books that I can read over and over again because they feel like home when I’m craving the comfort of the familiar. I love that I become so personally involved in the lives of various characters that I speak about them as though they are real people and my friends.

I want to write a novel because I would love the opportunity to maybe, just maybe, impact a person’s life the way that various books have impacted mine.

Do you have a dream? Are you struggling to achieve it?

  • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    I’m very close to finishing my first book and should be ready to begin sending it out to agents or publishers later this year.

    I wrote about this on my blog last week – the most important thing I’ve learnt about the process of writing a book is something my mentor Pamela Freeman taught me – You have to make room for the work.

    You need to make room for all the things you need to do to finish a book. You need to make room to read a lot and write a lot. You need to make room to learn about the craft of writing. You need to make room for training courses and Beta readers. If you don’t make room for these things, then all you have is a day-dream.

    Over the past 4 years, I’ve set aside at least 14 hours a week for my writing – sometimes more. I’ve given up some things to focus on my writing, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve sacrificed anything, because I love all the aspects of writing – first drafts, second drafts, revision, edits, polishes.

    I’m going to be honest with you now – if you can’t find time for the work – if writing feels like a chore or if there are other things in your life that you won’t sacrifice to make room for the craft of writing – then maybe writing isn’t going to be your thing.

    But if you do want to write a book, then it shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should feel like the most natural thing in the world – that’s how it feels to me. The more time I’ve invested in the craft of writing, the happier I’ve become.

    But remember, it will take a lot of work to get your writing to a point where it doesn’t suck. I’m just finishing my fourth draft at the moment, and it’s only been during this fourth draft that I’ve finally begun to understand what my book is about. It takes a LONG time and a LOT of work to get to that point. You need to have patience. You’re going to have to write a lot of shite before you start writing the good stuff… but if you don’t do the work – if you don’t give yourself time to write all the shite, you’ll never get to a point where you finally understand enough about the craft of writing to actually write something you like and can be proud of. And that will take YEARS!

    Remember, most authors first books usually take about 6 years to be published – from the time they begin to write until the books come out – that’s a long time, a big commitment, and an awful amount of work… but if you don’t make room for that work, it will never happen.

    • Monique Fischle

      That’s great advice JJ, thank you.

      I don’t find writing to be a chore. One of the reasons I love my day job is that I spend the majority of my day writing. I get to learn different ways to tell stories and all different kinds of writing. I find writing very fulfilling. The only downside is that after an average of seven hours each day at work spent exclusively writing and editing (which I love) and not all the other ‘mundane’ aspects of my job, my creativity juices are running a bit low. But I’m determined to stop using this as an excuse.

      I’ve written a lot of shite in my time, I have whole folders dedicated on my computer to it. I like going back and looking at what I’ve written in the past and editing it to improve it with the knowledge I’ve gained since then.

      I’m going to take your advice JJ, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, I admire your commitment to writing.

  • Jessica Chapman

    I think the important thing to remember is that ideas never come to you fully formed. The idea for the novel I’ve been working on for the last 6 years was a bit inspired by a dream I had, I dreamed two scenes and got the idea from that, but the book has changed so much in form since then that I have actually cut those two scenes out of the book. When authors say where their ideas have come from I don’t think they mean the fully formed ones. I don’t think JK Rowling was sitting on the train and had the entire plot for six books come to her at once.

    And it’s different for different authors too. I went to the Sydney Writers’ Festival the week before last and was listening to Sasha Arango, Mark Henshaw and Liane Moriaty discuss the lies in the book. Sasha Arango said that he got his idea for ‘The Truth and Other Lies’ by imagining the situation and then trying to write out all the consequences and twists and turns. So you don’t have to start out with a fully formed idea, sometimes you start out with a kernel of an idea, remember that ‘The Great Gatsby’ started life as a short story before it was expanded to become a great novel.

    It’s not all easy though, I wrote my first draft in 2010 when my Dad suggested I take a year break between my Bachelor of arts and the real world to make a go of my writing. Five years later, I’ve had on and off jobs, did my Masters in Creative writing (which improved my writing greatly) and I still don’t know how close I am to being finished. In 2013 I became really blocked up and didn’t want to work on the novel at all, there were excuses but I was making them because I was scared. I was scared I’d finish it and wouldn’t be able to face the rejection involved in trying to get published, scared I would have wasted all this time on something that wouldn’t become anything. But that’s because I was focusing on the wrong part, the fear rather than the writing.

    I did a couple of courses/seminars at the NSW Writers’ Centre (they usually do them on weekends or evenings) and also worked my way through Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist Way’ book which I’d recommend to anyone who feels creatively blocked because of fear. I also read through the posts on procrastination at Wait But Why began writing again.

    I try to write as much as I can but also try not to beat myself up for not writing as much as I think I should. I am still struggling with some of the fears that come with wanting to pursue any dream but I am writing and slow progress is still progress. And I find the more I write, even if it’s just a couple of pages of nonsense, the more I think about writing when I’m not writing, which is where the ideas come from.

    The more I think about it, the more I think, you don’t sit down to write a novel, you sit down and write words, those words become sentences, those sentences become paragraphs, those paragraphs become scenes and those scenes become chapters and those chapters make a novel. It just all starts with words on a page.

    • Monique Fischle

      Thanks Jessica, you’ve given me lots to think about. I know the ideas don’t come fully formed (wouldn’t it be lovely if they did!). I’ve been looking at NSW Writers’ Centre courses for a while now but living in Newcastle limits me to the weekend ones.

      Your last paragraph is so true and I’m going to continue to remind myself that.

  • Melissa Savage

    The one piece of advice I’d give is beware the trap of the steady job. Once you work full time and get used to a steady income, it gets harder and harder to walk away from the money (because you have commitments and you need the income) and your time only gets less and less as you manage a household and maybe have kids and pets. Take a leap and keep the safety net small so you can focus yourself on being productive. This guy explains it better than I can http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/city-corporates-destroy-best-minds

    • Monique Fischle

      Thanks Mel, good advice! So very true. The funny thing is that both DG and I want to pursue things that most likely won’t involve a steady income (him being a musician), but both my parents were able to make careers out of music so hopefully we can do the same.

  • Rashida Mamujee

    Hi Monique your post really spoke to me. I’m in the same boat – kind of. I get all these shiny ideas, start the novel and then a little of the way in life takes over. I’m also a writer as a day job and do sometimes feel like you. I also look after my son full time at home. You should just start putting words on paper instead of worrying that you don’t have a solid idea to start with. Why not go into work 1/2 hour earlier and write your novel first thing before you tackle your emails and work projects? Also don’t allocate unrealistic deadlines to your writing, just write.
    It doesn’t matter how many words as long as you write something. Good luck!

    • Monique Fischle

      Thanks Rashida, that’s a good idea. I’m a master procrastinator. You’re right, I just need to start writing. I hope you find the time to write your novel as well, I can’t imagine how much harder it is with children!