I came across this quote the other day from W. Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” (To be clear, I came across this quote on Pinterest, so who knows if Mr. Maugham even said it…) First, there is truth to this. Writing a novel is a completely subjective experience, and every single person will do it differently: at a different time of day, at different speeds, with different prep work, etc. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to give you three rules for writing a novel. Here goes: Continue reading
How do you go about coming up with the idea for a novel, or any creative story for that matter? The most important tool in a writer’s toolbox is the question “What if…?” and I am not the first to give this advice. The creation of a story happens when you ask “What if…?” What if a stranger appeared in this person’s mundane life to challenge him? What if a normal voyage suddenly went terribly wrong? What if people lived forever? What if these two types of personalities were put in a room together?
That’s how the idea for my novel came about. Growing up we would vacation on Cape Cod, and we would always see the Target Ship, which was an old World War II Liberty Ship that was scuttled in Cape Cod Bay in the ’50s and used for target practice by the Navy before it was left to rot. So every year we would go to the beach on the bay and see this old, rotting ship in the distance, and it became a source of fascination for me. At the beach we happened to go to were a few houses with unencumbered views of the water. One time I thought, “What if there was a man who had served on that ship during WWII, and who loved that ship and was obsessed with that ship so much that he moved to one of these houses to be near it?” And my novel was born.
What situations do you find yourself in? What things fascinate you? What can you ask “What if…?” to? You may find yourself suddenly with a story to tell.
So, I’m writing a novel. I’ve been working on it for the past year, and as I’ve been talking about it to friends, they’ve asked me about what it’s like to write a novel – some are readers who are curious about the process on how a novel gets created, some are fellow creatives who have different approaches towards writing and creation. I’ve been writing for a while and it seems to me a pretty unromantic process, yet there’s so much passion and research and creation involved in it that people either don’t know about, or know about and are interested in learning more. So I figured I would write about that process here: What it’s like to write a novel, what it’s like to time manage writing a novel (I’m doing it while working full time and doing a master’s degree), what my research has been like (Baltimore, WWII Liberty Ship tour), what making narrative choices is like (POV, etc.), what it’s like to completely change an ending and why (yes I did), and more. Hopefully some of these posts will be interesting to those who are curious what the process is like, and helpful to those who are going through the process as well. And I definitely welcome questions – if there’s something you would like to know, drop a question in the comments.
More to come soon.
I got an email yesterday from the author of one of the few blogs I follow, a blog that has been influential in my life, saying that she was shifting things in her life and had deleted the entire contents of her blog, to start fresh.
There’s that tricky line again when it comes to being a writer, and being a writer with readers. What is your obligation to them? What is your responsibility? I think you definitely need to do you, and if something isn’t working then change it. If deleting all your past content – or quitting your job, or moving – is the way you need to cut ties and start new, then that’s what you have to do. But at what point do your actions affect others? If you quit your job, what kind of void are you leaving, and who will pick up the slack? If you move, you’re saying to your friends, “I’ve just changed the nature of our friendship without your input.” If you delete your content, you’ve now taken away the entire foundation of your platform, and thousands of words of wisdom, encourage, and humor that drew people in in the first place.
I would go through the archives of this blog and just read for encouragement, read for a pick-me-up. I can’t do that any more. It would be like if I went into a bookstore and found that my favorite author had pulled their entire backlist because they wanted to “do something new.” So now I don’t get access anymore to the words that came before, the words that drew me in in the first place?
It begs the question: At what point does our creation stop belonging 100% to us? At what point does the reader actually have a bit of ownership in the work we’ve put out there? After all, without the reader, we wouldn’t be writers.