Let's Celebrate Authors, Shall We?
Today is November 1st and that is officially Author's Day. However, it is also, as you have probably guessed, the first day of November. November is also NaNoWriMo, so the entire month, in a way , is dedicated to authors and writing.
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you start writing on November 1 and, by November 30, you have 50,000 words (or more) and, thus, you have enough for a novel. I did it once and it darn near killed me, but I've talked about that before and you can find that stuff online.
If you have aspirations of writing, you probably are very tempted, right now, to ask me the question I have been asked almost as much as "where do you get your ideas?" That would be - "How do you write a novel?"
Here's the deal.
I wish I could recite to you all some magic potion. I wish it was adding a little eye of newt and tail of toad with a pinch of salt and, voila, you have a novel. The fact is, there is nto actually tell you how to do it. The answer is not one people like to hear. The answer is: you write a novel in whatever way works for you.
Now, I can maybe give you a few tips. First, you have to be fond of writing. I know, seems obvious, but if you have trouble reading or have trouble writing, you are going to struggle with writing a novel. When you struggle, that's fine, every bit of creation is a struggle, but if you struggle too much, you'll get frustrated and stop. You need to love crafting sentences, be obsessed with words, and constantly conjuring stories inside your brain. If you are missing that stuff, then you are unlikely to complete the task.
If you think you can do it and you can tell a story, then the next step is to throw out all of the rules you think need to be in place inside your brain right now. Hell, grab paper and burn them in a pit in the backyard symbolically. Once you have completed this psychological exercise, I have good news.
There is no time limit. There is no actual required daily word count. You can use an outline, or you don't have to. You can lay out your plots on little index cards and rearrange them all over your floor or wall, or not. You can write the first draft entirely by hand. You can use a word processor, computer or whatever. You can start at the end and work your way forward, or start in the middle, or write in a bunch of different spots in the storyline and then fill in the blanks. You can write in the morning, during the day, at night, or whenever you want.
There are no rules in your imagination and other than the rules of grammar (which can also be played around with, by the way), you have nothing holding you back other than whatever psychological hang-ups you might have. Tell the story and make it as long or as short as the story warrants.
My best advice? Write the first draft without trying to correct yourself as you go. Do the brain dump and get it all onto the page. The tinkering and nudging and other things comes when you do the editing and second draft. For the first draft, grab that story and pull it out of your brain as messy and dirty as it is.
You'll know when to stop. You can keep notes to keep characters and plotlines straight. You can use a random name generator for character names (I do).
The most important thing you need to do is the part that most people find the hardest. You need to sit down and start writing. Stop staring at the cursor or the blank page, and just start writing. Trust your instincts. Hell, trust the story. Tell it.
The world needs it and November is a good time to remember this.