Seriously, stop right now. Hands off the keyboard. Don’t type (or scribble) another word.
We need to have a good heart to heart.
So . . .
I hear you are “trying to write a novel.”
How’s it working for you?
*puts on teacher glasses and grabs notepad and pen*
Hm . . .
That good, huh?
If I may make a suggestion?
Instead of “trying to write a novel”–a daunting task at the very least–why not focus on telling a story?
“What’s the difference?” you ask?
The difference is that “trying to write a novel” puts the emphasis on you. A lot of pressure can result from “trying to write a novel.” You can fail, miserably. People won’t like you because you suck at writing novels. You can’t even finish the damn thing.
I’d be willing to bet your characters and world aren’t real enough to you.
Because the focus isn’t on them and their story, it’s on you and your status.
I love this quote by Ernest Hemingway:
‘When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.’
When you create real people in real worlds, suddenly, you create commitment of a new sort. It’s a lot easier to commit to your main character’s story if he/she is real to you, fleshed out, the story is vivid, and is yours to write.
“What the crap does ‘yours to write’ mean?” you ask?
There are some things that may not be yours to write. I can’t answer this for you, only you can do that. But a good indication is the level of passion you feel for fleshing out your story and characters and following it through to the end. In much the same way a reader is pulled through the story because of their emotional attachment to it (among other elements), if you have a good deal of emotional investment in a story, it is a kazillion times easier to write, and a gajillion times better to read. Some would say the story may even begin to “write itself,” with the characters pulling you along, telling you exactly what to write. That is what you want to look for. Not the bragging rights of having written a novel, but instead, that connection deep inside you, deep in that well of strengths, weaknesses, and experiences you yourself know to be true for your life. This is the cornerstone to build a good story off of; the lifeline to all of humanity, where creation springs forth from the inner voice and knowing that says, “This is wholly and authentically me.”
Readers have to care about the story or characters in some way if they are to spend the time and money to read it. If you are not emotionally invested in your story and characters, chances are great that readers won’t be, either.
So, stop trying to write a novel.
Start telling a story; the story that is yours to tell. Tell that story that your innermost dreams, fears, desires, and horrors, are both screaming at you to and not to write. Maybe step into the darker, scarier parts of yourself and what you know about life, and dig there for fiction fodder. That’s where the juicy stuff is. That’s some of the deliciousness readers crave. That’s the stuff that will change your life, make you blossom and grow as you write. And when you look back, you’ll be able to call yourself a novelist. But more importantly, a storyteller. Through stories, readers can live lives vicariously through your characters, they can learn and grow and experience, they can laugh, cry, and escape. When you are telling a story, you are a vestibule for the creative workings of the Universe to flow through into others. Telling a story isn’t just about you. It’s also, if not more, about the connection, the readers, the listeners. Make them feel something. It will fulfill you at the same time. That’s what they want. It’s what you want. To tell a good story; to hear a good story. It goes back to the dawn of man and pictures on cave walls. It’s what links us to our ancestors and reminds us of what things used to be like. It’s what helps us open our minds to new possibilities. Sometimes, it’s the best way to learn a lesson. Storytelling may very well be the single most badass thing in the world, IMHO.
So, to sum up . . .
It isn’t about the title, “novelist.”
It’s about the very necessary (and badass) art of storytelling.
I will leave you with this last quote to ponder as you go about your merry, writerly way:
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.” -unknown
And if you are in the mood for more, please check out one of my faves, “50 Awesome Moments Only Writers Would Understand.”
Until next time, writerly peeps . . .
Write on! 😀