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21 Things I Learned from Writing a Novel

Posted on Nov 11, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have heard that I finished Lunatic Fringe. The book now comes in at 88,300 words and is in the hands of my dream publisher, waiting to be read (and adored).

I’ve said before that the experience of writing Lunatic Fringe has been worth its weight in gold.  Rather than spend two years in an MFA program, learning how to construct and edit a novel, I learned on my feet, from making mistakes and correcting them, over and over again.  Of course I still have lots to learn and will continue to do so as I keep writing books.  I want each to be better than the last, and for my craft and voice to be ever-refined and actively explored.

The night that I finished the book, I had insomnia and couldn’t stop my mind from churning on issues that were no longer relevant.  So, instead of wasting my brain power on such problems, I composed a short little list of the Things I Have Learned from Writing a Novel.  Keep in mind these are from four a.m. and were written in the dark with a shaky hand, so don’t expect too much, aight?  But perhaps this will at least be useful to the NanoWriMo crowd, since we’re in the ides of it right now. This list will get longer, no doubt, but these are the first things that came to mind.

21 Things I Learned from Writing a Novel:

1.     Go outside every day.

2.     Keep a noteboook and pen next to the bed or you’ll regret it eleventy-billion times.

3.     Develop a strong will for waking yourself up to write down the awesome things you think of when you’re drifting to sleep.  It gets easier if you have #2 handled.

4.     Adverbs usually suck.

5.     Try to maintain a decent posture.

6.     Running sucks, but it works in a pinch for burning off excess energy.

7.      Sex is better than running in most cases.

8.     Find someone to have sex with.

9.     Just because you can stay in your PJs all day, doesn’t mean you should.

10.    Weed is great for idea generation and outlining but shouldn’t be used during editing.

11.     Regarding whiskey, see above.

12.    Always have more printer toner than you think you’ll need.

13.    Print out your book and edit it long hand.

14.    Don’t work on your laptop in bed before going to sleep.

15.    However, working on your laptop in bed first thing after waking is great.

16.   Even if you’re a night person, learn to wake up and write first thing in the morning.  Late nights are just as much of a drug as weed or booze- good for imagination expansion, lousy for actually writing prose.

17.   Pretty passages and bon mots are renewable resources.  If they serve no purpose in the story, cut them out and turn them into tweets or status updates or poems or save them for another book.  They don’t have to die in vain, but they also shouldn’t weigh down your book.

18.   Celebrate rights of passage and don’t let the bitter life-time novelists tell you otherwise.  Every draft of a book is a victory.

19.   Most people don’t realize how long it takes to both write (and rewrite) a book or get a finished book published.  Try not to be impatient with them.  Odds are, they’re just excited to read it and support you.

20.   Before letting your parents read your book, it’s polite to warn them if there’s a lot of naughty stuff in it.

21.    Ignoring conventional advice, tell everyone in your life that you’re writing a book.  Most people will get excited about it and will ask you about it every time they see you.  If you happen to have a lot of pride (like me) having your friends hold to you account to complete your book is the best incentive to get it done, particularly when you’re slogging through some tough times.  Even if you have one facebook friend who is always writing on your wall “When can I read  your book?!?!?!?!!?!?!”  that’s often enough to get you moving pen on paper.

And one more for kicks:

22.  Your social life will suffer.  Accept it and move on.  Celebrate hard when you’re done and remind your friends you are alive.

(And to indulge the technorati gods, fine, here: YP7F6JAV9BFN)

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One Comment

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  1. Caryn

    #4 yesssssss :)

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