Thursday, March 18, 2010
People who have spent some time writing for a living, have usually found a routine that works for them, and knowing that what they write will most likely be published is all the incentive they need to sit down and do the job at hand. For you, the aspiring novelist, the long, lonesome road from the first sentence to seeing your novel in a bookstore is fraught with challenges.
Okay, so you have a good idea for a novel. Sit down and fashion your story into a 3-4 page synopsis. Once you have tangible a plan, ask yourself: Am I willing to spend upward of a year, perhaps far longer, writing a 100,000 word manuscript which I don’t know if any publisher will ever look at, even less buy?
You’re willing to take the risk? Great! Now find the time. You have a partner/husband/wife, kids, dogs and a full-time job, so it’s going to be hard. The question I ask aspiring writers who complain of lack of time: Do you ever watch television? You do? Okay, you definitely have time to write, possibly lots of it. Making time to write will involve the sacrifice of something else you do daily. In my case, I cut out some of my social life (less drinking = more alertness, more time), started getting up very early in the mornings and took my laptop on holidays. In this way, my family life was almost unaffected.
Make no mistake about it, a routine of daily writing still requires steel-reinforced discipline. Remind yourself constantly of your determination to finish your novel. You need a quiet space, preferably with just your laptop, and absolutely no telephone or internet access. For some this might away from home, a café, the local library or on the train to work.
Hopefully you have a tolerant and encouraging family. If they are not, you have to harden yourself to criticism and recriminations, and demand that they be more self-sufficient. Altogether you need a tough skin and a certain amount of selfishness. Friends too might be jealous and resentful.
Thinking back on the innocence with which I started writing ICE TRAP, my debut novel, I had only a vague idea of what was ahead of me. Working part-time as a psychotherapist, part-time as a sculptor, I had a home, a husband and two dogs (my kids had flown the nest but were always at the end of the phone). I also had other hobbies and interests which I wasn’t willing to give up.
I gritted my teeth and stuck at my daily three-hours of writing, because I loved the story I had in my head and was confident others would too. I sought out other writers, read many looks, got tuition and went on courses, always keen to learn from readers – really hearing their critique (including some scalding ones). I was a bit flattened by the stack of rejections I got from publishers, but I decided early on not to give up until I’d exhausted every last avenue. Eventually ICE TRAP became an international bestseller, and a full-time writer was born.
Kitty Sewell’s book, BLOODPRINT (Touchstone, 2010) is available in paperback wherever books are sold.