The Bad News Is, You're On Your Own


Oh, that little rash of encouragement here on The Penslayer?  
It's gone.

Okay, but hold up.  Stay with me a second.  Because you want to know why I think you don't know how to write a novel.  Is it because Jenny has finally unlocked THE SECRET to writing THE PERFECT NOVEL, and you all are ignoramuses? (Considering I couldn't spell "ignoramus" without help, I doubt that's the reason.)  Spoiler alert -

i don't know how to write novels either

Okay.  What's going on here.  When am I going to jostle you in the ribs and say, "Just kidding! You're actually doing just fine and you've totally got this"?  Well, probably never.  Maybe.  THE THING IS - I keep working so hard at my craft, always second-guessing myself and struggling and tweaking and wrestling to get my scenes and my plots and my stories and my life JUST EXACTLY PERFECT.  I look at other authors and I think, "They've arrived.  They've got this.  I've just got to get where they are."  And I keep struggling.

Struggling, pushing yourself, I'm 100% for that.  But the lie is in that mentality of, "I've got to just get where THAT PERSON IS and then I'll have made it" because 

none of us knows what we're doing 
and
you never actually learn how to write "a novel"

Yeah, sorry.  It's true.  But here's the good news!  (Aren't you glad you stuck around this long?)  None of us knows what we're doing, but we get better at interpreting the forecast of our lives and making what adjustments we can.  You never learn how to write a novel, you just get better at recognizing problems and how to fix them.  {{EVERY NOVEL IS DIFFERENT (or bloody well should be), and you are always learning anew how to write the one you're on.}}  There is no secret formula to writing a novel.  Obviously there are key components that make for a good story - engaging characters, connection with the characters' plight, their goals, actually caring if the characters get what they want in the end - but you can't just unlock the secret to the novel-universe and walk away with the one-size-fits-all formula.  Because there isn't one.  Every. single. novel. will be a totally new deal. With no mistakes in it.  No mistakes in it YET.

Take that idea that one day you're going to have this all figured out, and throw that idea out the window.  Boom.  It's gone.  Now that you've cleared a path from the door to the window, you can start organizing the rest of the mess.   View each novel as new, fresh, with the humility of knowing that you don't know how to write it.  You won't know how to write it until you've written it.  That's the weird paradoxical fact of writing, folks.  Stop thinking that one day you'll "arrive."  You won't.  Each novel will be a brand new relationship, a brand new struggle, a whole new world, just waiting for you to hurl yourself in free-fall style and hope that maybe you'll remember where the catch is on your parachute.  

and maybe one day i'll learn how to keep my analogies from running all over the place. one day. maybe.

6 ripostes:

  1. Truer words, never spoke, all that. I incredible comfort in knowing that I'll never figure it out. It makes not getting right feel like less of a failure and more like an opportunity to try again. I'm never going to "get there" so why not be excited about how far I have gotten? And even more excited about where I'm going to go.

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    1. I like the way you think. I think your view on this is spot on, especially that excitement to see what the future will bring, since your past has already got you so far. <3

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  2. I love this, and I would even go so far as to say all life is fumbling around like that, uncertain. We have no idea how to do something until we've done it, and once we have done it, we'll never do it again. None of us know what we're doing, so loosen up and get going! This is why we have faith in God: without His hand we truly are in the dark, but with it we can see the tiny light-prick at the end of the tunnel. That's the difference.

    The excuse "but I don't know how" just doesn't work. XP

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    1. NOBODY knows how. So just pretend no one is looking and give it your best. Swing for the fences. If you miss, eh heh, just try again. XD

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  3. So true! I'm realizing this afresh as I work on a 'new' novel (actually a dusty old one that I'm redrafting)... It's SO. DIFFERENT. The process feels new and a little unfamiliar--not the same as this story's prequel at all. It's encouraging to hear that none of us know what we're doing, that we're all experimenting and discovering. Makes me more inclined to forget my worries and just dig in and get my hands dirty. Thanks. :)

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    1. You are welcome! Trying to dive back into a storyline ages later, or when the storyline has moved FORWARD several years? VERY HARD. UGH. I'm right there with you. But we can do it! Rosie the Riveter and all that jazz! :D

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