I’ve hemmed and hawed about the kind of dedication and discipline needed to put 70,000 to 90,000 words on paper. In truth, each writer probably has a different answer to that question. We all have our unique methods of work. Clearly, however, we must achieve some common goals otherwise we will never see the day that the novel is complete.
In fact, after the words are on paper, a new task begins. That of editing. Once we writers have gone to all the trouble to put words on paper, it takes a lot for us to then delete them. Editing often requires major deletions, major shifts. That process takes even more out of us than the writing itself.
So, what does it take to write a novel? Here are some of my tips that come from my experience:
1) It takes the discipline to write nearly every day.
2) When we are not writing, we must read.
3) It takes confidence to write. We cannot heed all the advice we get from the non-writers of the world. We must learn what to listen to and what to ignore. Most of what we hear, we should ignore. For example, non-writers will tell you, “write what you know.” Perhaps you are creating a new world view, a scientific phenomon emerged from your creative mind. Is that what you know? Do you chuck that work because a non-writer advises you to write what you know?
4) Don’t be swayed by rejection.
They do not nurture the budding writer. Instead they step on us and grind us into oblivion. The writers that make it, go forward anyway. They do not let those hurtful, sometime rude commentaries stop them.
5) Edit what you write with ruthlessness. Yes, it’s hard to let go of a wonderful scene. But if the scene doesn’t push the story forward, it has to go. You can write a better scene, one that works.
6) Research everything. Your readers will discover your mistakes. Writers do not know everything about everyone and their lives, their work, their world. We must research those little things that our characters intimately know.
Often I am inspired when I research. If I go to a place to learn more about a setting, seeing it, researching it sparks ideas and stimulates creativity.
Here are some of my ideas about what it takes to write a novel? What might you add?
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GAIL TOFFEY says
Writing memoir & book of poetry – have over 100 plus decent poems, and I edit all the time. It’s when to quit editing – not mastered. I don’t have an agent, but I know that I have talent. Have been writing since early teens when my Dad gave some of my stuff to poet/writer, Conrad Akin in the 70’s in Savannah. He said that I had a knack for words and rhythm. I began Winthrop Univ to work on my Masters (Search for Order) in the late ’80’s, mastered the essay, & prose was my forte. When I started thinking seriously about poetry, Susan Ludvigson, poet in residence USC, said I was her most “creative” poet in several groups, although I knew that I was not as good as other writers (published) in my group. I did have an offer from a contest in Poets & Writers to have one of mine published, but I felt that it was so that I’d buy their anthology. I never quit and now feel like I know what I am doing: GOOD GRIEF CAN SHOP FOR DESTRACTION 2014: Garments of grief now fill my bulging closet,/ The present, rent by a shadowed grasp/ of all the spaces past the last pale anguish,/ Heartache’s tune worn by yesterday. Nature’s/ Untimely order of cold chaos, frost, rain, or dew,/ Beckons sun’s shadow patterns, fills new morning’s/ Early chill in a warm cotton sweater, shed by noon,/ It’s warmth dimming peach to lilac-azure skie’s – shades/ Of May, June, July./ Actually, I have a closet full/ Of color from aqua-deep or sea-green-covered chairs/ That match a loveseat strategiacally placed by the wall/ At a ninety degree angle in the small open living room/ where I sit to read. Colors shout love, joy,/ Red or orange as sun’s gold, ochre, yellow/ – Like pieces of fruit – pears -bananas until ripe/ with brown. There’s lemon bright or white as sizzling noon, shaded by white cumulus, streaming into stratus’/ – Angel art across Carolina sky — chubby cherubs slip into/ Sankes or the “white” light bulb in my bedside lamp’s/ Oriental vase of peacock scenes and chic black shade/ with a spoon of gold on the bottom rim. There, light is dim/ On dark olive walls like grey rainy days or a soft, black tune, and/ Nights, subtle as forgetting, mask sorrow, weep stinging stars/ That flicker obediance to a round and howling moon.
GAIL TOFFEY says
This is not my best, only one of my most recent, and probably the next time I read it, I shall be horrified that I sent it to you – obedient is misspelled in last line, I see now. Actually, Susan’s comment was not “creative”, but the best “imagination” in the group. I think there is a difference. Anyway, do you think I should find an agent or self publish, or just forget it. Would you like another poem? The book is better than the poetry, also – IF i ever finish it.
GAIL TOFFEY says
Oops – also (how in the world) misspelled sky’s. Just getting older and want this off my back before I die. Thanks for this opportunity, and I hope that I did not abuse the first comment box too badly.
GAIL TOFFEY says
I, too, grew up in the south — born in AL, mostly raised in Savannah, GA (2 yrs in FL; 4yr stint in Beaufort, SC) — by mother from midwest & father from south. Married a Yank in Sav., but lived in MN, NJ, NC where our sons were born, but raised just across the border on Lake Wylie, SC., AND — I see we have important states in common.
Joan Curtis says
Hi Gail, Sorry for the late response. I’m out of the country on a nice holiday and the wi-fi is sketchy. But, I appreciate all your communication. I’d suggest you look for a small publisher first. Agents for poetry are extremely hard to come by. Agents look for books that will make big bucks. Poetry has a small audience by nature of the genre. Take a look at Duotrope.com. It’s a clearinghouse or search tool for small publishers in particular genre. It costs a little but might be worth it to you.
As you noted, I’m a girl bred in the south as well even though my mom was a Yankee. Do you still live in Savannah? That’s a beautiful place! Keep writing and don’t give up is the best advice.