it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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there ain't no wood anyhow

So you've decided to write a novel. Like you do. (As one does.)

It's the month for novel-writing, after all.

And you may wonder, well. how do I go about this thing?

Well, in all honesty, it's pretty simple.

You put your butt in a chair and type. You type long and hard, and when you have typed your typing fingers sore, if you are lucky, you have somewhere between three and six hundred pages of material.

That's right. I said between three and six hundred pages of material.

That sounds like a scary awful lot, doesn't it? And yeah, in some respects it is. It's a huge amount of material, somewhere between 80,000 and 150,000 words of English prose. (I assume that you are writing in English chiefly because I am writing in English, and this is what I know about publishing original fiction in other languages: bupkiss.

Yep, that much.)

Anyway, so you've decided to embark upon this project.

And let me tell you, it's not an easy one. It's a major production, along the lines of building a house or organizing a seven-country European tour or writing a dissertation or building a house or setting up a big Italian wedding. It's a Project, in other words. I ain't gonna lie.

But here's what it requires:

Grim determination and a modicum of talent.

By grim determination, what I mean is the ability to get up every morning and put the butt in the chair and bang out a page, two pages, six pages.

I aim for six to eight pages most days. Cory Doctorow aims for one. Some other people (like John Scalzi) sit down and hammer out a book in a month or two every couple of years. You can be a tortoise or you can be a hare: it doesn't signify.

All that matters is the butt-in-chair. Getting the pixels on the phosphors. Making words happen.

If it's a first novel, honestly, your first and foremost goal is to finish. You can always fix or trunk it later.

That's the real secret of professional writers, by the way: they're not afraid to rip out old stuff and rewrite it, even though it hurts fiercely sometimes. And they're not afraid to abandon broken pieces.

Some stuff just can't be fixed. Write a new story, using what you learned when you wrote the last one. It'll be better.

That's what Steve Brust said to me, when I had finished my first novel. He said if you have written and finished one, you have done more than most writers do in their entire lives. And if you finish one, you can finish two. And the second will likely be better than the first.

He was right.
Tags: writing craft wank

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