Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Best writing advice I ever got

You want to write a novel. That’s not unusual. A lot of people love to write and many excel at it. I’d like to give you the best advice possible though before you begin, and this is it: finish what you start.
Yes, that’s it. Finish what you start. Carve it in stone or write it in indelible ink and paste it over your keyboard, but don’t forget it. It sounds so anodyne, so uncomplicated, and so easy. But it’s going to be the hardest part of writing a novel.

Starting a book is easy. Inspiration comes as quickly and easily as a breeze through an open window or a dream. Even characters are simple to create; after all, they are living in your head and you know them better than anyone. A plot is important and it’s as easy as a beginning, a middle and an end.
So, you ask, what is so hard about writing a novel?

I’ll tell you. Writing a novel is sitting down every single day and writing. It’s writing when you are not inspired. It’s writing when you have something else to do. It’s writing when there is a movie you want to see, a dog barking, the telephone ringing, and your kids clamouring for their dinner. It’s writing until you’ve attained your word count, and then wrote the last two words…‘The End’.
It still sounds deceptively easy. But how many would-be authors write twenty, thirty, even a hundred pages and then get stuck. “No, this isn’t going right.” They say. Or, “I can’t seem to get into the story anymore.” They decide to put it in a drawer and finish it later.

More likely they will have another inspiration and start writing a totally different book. They will invent newer, more interesting characters and start again. And then, after a few chapters, the same ennui will set in. The same doubts. The same urge to just stick the manuscript in a drawer and start anew.

Finish what you have started.
The best advice you can get is this: No matter what happens to the characters, plot, and conflict—keep writing. Finish that book! The first book a novelist pens is rarely a gem. It’s often a barely concealed autobiographical book about themselves. The very best thing an aspiring author can do is to finish that first book…and put it in a drawer. Then, start another one. But never, ever, start a new one until you’ve finished writing your first book.

Finish that first book for several reasons.
One, it means you are an author. You have written a novel. No matter what kind of book, be it a masterpiece or a disaster, it is a novel and it is finished. You have done something many people set out to do and few accomplish, so give yourself a pat on the back. Two, it will give you the confidence you need to start another book and to finish that one too. Book two will be better, I promise. It will be easier to write. The words will flow effortlessly. The characters will stay in character. And you will have vanquished the urge to add autobiographical details. You will have freed yourself to write. So you want to write a novel? Go ahead, start one…but whatever you do, finish what you’ve started.


Wynn Bexton said...

Hi Sam, thanks for your kind words and 'hogs' :-)
I have just finished all the cutting and pasting and things look better already. Now if only I could get over this sickly feeling (from the cold)...I do feel better about other things when I'm writing. I get absorbed in that other world (where I'd rather be at the moment) and forget about the
melancholy things in life...

I think I'll print out this entry of yours and read it to my novel writing class next week. (If I can get my finickity printer to co-operate!!!) And It's a good one to keep pasted on the wall, as a reminder. Write, write, write!!!

The sun in shining and I might go for a little walk in just awhile.
Try to get a bit more inspiration cooking. But at least the main job I had to do is finished for now.

Cheers, wynn
(PS the missing items were two CD's loaned to me by my Havana Buddy. I could just burn him copies but he's a radio guy and needs the liner notes so I have to now buy two new ones. They're Cuban music and I hope they are available here. It just upsets me that someone took them -- I think I know who but can't prove it -- and that person was invited to my house and considered a friend.

As for the other 'friend'. He's a difficult guy, I know that. And I suppose it was my fault for caring too much about him instead of treating it as a 'casual' friendship. Live and learn, eh?

Sam said...

Hi Wynn,
Thanks for your kind words! Glad you like the article. I keep getting poeple who say, 'Oh, I'd like to write a novel, tell me how to do it!', and I say, 'Just start one, and finish it.'
Sounds easier than it is, lol.