The first in a four part series.
As part of my first year university acting class, I performed an excerpt from Anton Chekov’s The Three Sisters. I no longer remember the plot, but I do remember all three sisters wanting to go to Moscow. They talked about it (a lot) but they never went.
Being not even 20, I was baffled by the sisters’ lack of action. “Why don’t they just go to Moscow?!” 14 years later, I understand. What if Moscow didn’t work out? What if it made them miserable? If they stayed, at least they would have the beauty of the dream.
Writing is terrifying. But what exactly are we afraid of?
You have an idea. A great idea. One that makes you really excited to get started. There’s just one problem. This isn’t an idea for a poem, a short story, or even a play. It’s a novel. With an average word count of 100,000 starting a novel is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed. So what do you do?
The truth, is if you wrote 274 words a day, in one year you would have a draft. Even if you skipped days here and there, you could still have yourself a beginning, middle and an end in less than two. Think of finishing your novel as a goal you can accomplish. Only then can you sit down and get started.
An Awful Book
But what if it’s bad? I’m going to level with you. It will be. That’s the point. If you really want to write a novel, you need to give yourself permission to write badly. Cry through the draft if you have to, just get something down. No book has ever been published without ridiculous amounts of rewrites and you can’t rewrite what doesn’t exist.
Working on a novel is challenging enough, but tackling sci-fi or fantasy means creating an entire world and the rules magic or technology. Where to begin?! Do not despair, rejoice! While other writers are researching Maine or what people wore in the eighteenth century, you get to create an entire world from scratch. Don’t focus on all you have yet to create. Celebrate the little victories – the name of your world, how the people look. These genres are daunting, but they’re also a lot of fun. Enjoy it.
It will happen. A lot. If rejection comes with some constructive criticism, take it. If it doesn’t, move on. Resubmit. Again and again. Rewrite again and again. The only way you are guaranteed never to be published is if you never submit.
Admitting You’re a Writer
Even published writers have a hard time admitting what they do for a living. When asked about her new year’s writing resolution, Emily Schultz, author of The Blondes, said “To actually admit that I’m a writer. Until now I’ve always been afraid of making people with normal jobs feel uncomfortable when I talk about being a writer… So in 2013 I’m just going to say it: I’m a novelist. I’m 38 years old, I’m committed now, there’s no going back, for better or worse I’m going to die a writer.”
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t published. Get comfortable saying you’re a writer now. Have your short, two sentence description or elevator pitch ready for the following conversation:
SOME GUY What do you do?
YOU I am currently working at (insert day job here) while I work on my novel.
SOME GUY Oh? What’s it about?
YOU (Insert elevator pitch here)
Now here’s the tricky part. Most of the time SOME GUY’s response to the description of your novel will be,
SOME GUY You know what you should do…
As you listen to SOME GUY tell you his ideas, just take a slow, deep breath (try to do this subtly) People have good intentions. They’re excited that you’re a writer. You should be, too. Remember, the purpose of publication is to have readers buy your book. That means you will have to tell people about it.
Most things worth doing are scary – traveling to a foreign country, telling something you love them. If you’re afraid it means you’re on to something.
Don’t dream of Moscow. Pack your bags and go.