I learnt early on that when writing a blog post, nothing is classier than starting it with a quote.
“Writing a novel was a simple, fun and breezy experience“
– No one ever
Strap yourself in. Place those seat backs and tray tables in their full upright position. It’s time for some REAL TALK.
‘Heavens’, you think to yourself while a servant boy fans you with a palm leaf, ‘wouldn’t it be just ever-so romantic to write a novel?’
Sure, that does seem like a fun, fulfilling thing to do. As we know from the films, the author’s life is a glamorous one. In summer they each rent a house in the French countryside, spending sun-drenched days typing their masterpiece on an utterly charming typewriter, while their housemaid-turned-lover frolics in the pool.
Heck, sign me up.
But what if Hollywood was straight up lying to us? What if the antique typewriter, housemaid/lover, French summerhouse dream was just some sort of elaborate hoax.
Are you the sort of person who would quite like to know whether the water is shark-infested before going swimming? Or that the rope is looking a little bit frayed before abseiling down the cliff-face? You are? Then let’s have a look at some of the realities of writing a novel, before you start shopping for summerhouses with appropriately attractive house help.
Writing is SUPER HARD
I don’t particularly care if you’re William freakin’ Shakespeare – writing a book with well-developed characters, a sound structure, and a coherent narrative is a difficult task.
Sure, you’ve got a basic plotline that you’ve dreamt up. But have you got any idea how to transfer that to 300-odd pages of surprise and intrigue? Guess what: IT’S TRICKY. There’s a reason that the amount of people who follow a comment of ‘I should write a novel’ with actually writing a novel is infinitesimal.
You nail that first page, then you get up to get a coffee, then you get writer’s block for 3 weeks. Such is a writer’s life.
Editing is SOMEHOW HARDER
You’ve bloomin’ done it! You’ve thrown down your last keystroke, finishing the last sentence, bringing to an end the creation of your dazzling first novel. HOORAY.
Now go back to the start and do it better this time.
You know that fifth chapter that you struggled with for three weeks straight? Now that you’ve read back your whole first draft, that section just doesn’t work. You’re going to have to delete it. And why does this character start as a tall, dark and confident stranger, and finish as a quivering push-over? It’s nonsensical. You’ll have to cut him and all his related plot points from the book.
The process of editing is what I imagine cutting up a family pet for its meat would be like.
You’ll Never Be Finished
The problem with the editing process is that it starts you in a never-ending loop of self-examination. When it comes to your novel, you’ll never sit back contentedly and dust your hands of it completely. ‘Hmmm’, you’ll say, flicking through your 23rd draft, ‘the first paragraph of chapter two could be punchier’.
In a running race, there’s a clear finish. You run towards the tape, and stop running when you hit it. In writing, the finishing tape is a concept that is as indefinable as it is non-existent. Like Forrest Gump, at some point you say to yourself ‘I’m pretty tired, I think I’ll go home now’, and just stop.
Like Rejection? Have I Got a Treat for YOU
If you’re a fan of constantly questioning your own self-worth, then boy oh boy, is this writing game for you!
Whether it be from your publisher, your agent, your proof-reader or even yourself, the rejection fun for a writer is seemingly never-ending. On a brighter note, you’ll be soon covered in a rejection wicking coating, and these nay-saying comments will be water off a writing duck’s back.
Who Really Needs to Eat?
Let’s talk brass tacks. At what point in my novel writing journey do I get to expand my investment property portfolio? When do I get to Scrooge McDuck in a ballroom-sized money pit?
Just so we’re all aware, the next sentence isn’t pretty. If you decide to click your browser’s ‘back’ button now, I won’t think any less of you.
Almost definitely never.
CONGRATULATIONS. Of all the ways that you could’ve chosen to use your time, you’ve somehow stumbled upon what is almost definitely the least lucrative. To become a J. K. Rowling, you’ll need to battle insurmountable odds, somehow rising above the deafening roar of all of the other, equally hopeful writers.
But Somehow, It’s Still Worth It
This is why I respect writers. To know that the road ahead may be a bumpy one, and your odds may not be great, but still sacrifice a lot in pursuit of something you love; to that I have to doff my cap. Many a person has started to write a book. Not very many have finished. By seeing the process through, you’ll have joined a very select group of people.
Courage, passion and tenacity may be what separates a journeyman writer from a successful one. If you put your heart and soul into your work, and pursue it fearlessly, you have a far greater chance of success than someone who has a half-thought of penning a book.
And If you’ve managed to read this far through this piece of anti-author propaganda, you could very well be made of the right stuff. As much as I’ve sold it as a silly career move, the fact is that many people do make a good living writing books. This love of writing could become a way of life.
If you’ve got the fire in the belly, and take the right approach, how far away could that French summerhouse really be?