Monday, July 6, 2009

"I plan to write a novel!"

It seems the most common sentence I hear from readers is, "I plan to write a novel." And ninety-nine percent of the time it's based on an individual's own personal journey, usually a fictionalized encapsulation of their life story, the novel they've had inside for years - a story they are determined to share with the world. I say . . . go for it. Write about what you know.

There are varying opinions on whether or not every story should be told. Perhaps that's up to an acquiring editor once that book is finished. But personally, I believe every story that moves a writer to finish it deserves to be birthed. Most (not all) first-time novels are semi-autobiographical - stories of self-achievement and experiences of survival, or stories of great tragedy that still haunt us years later.

I am very open about the fact that my first novel, May December Souls, was based in part on my estranged relationship with my father who passed away before I could really come to terms with my feelings about his decision to leave his family. I'm glad I had the discipline and determination to write it because a few women contacted me to say the book encouraged them to call their own absent fathers to make amends. But the father-daughter angle of this book was only a small part of the entire ninety-thousand word story. It's one thing to write about what happens to us personally, it's another to turn your life circumstances into a well-crafted work of fiction. Writing a novel is so much more than telling stories. Writing a novel is absolutely, hard work - but it can be done.

Get your story outlined and get on a writing regimen with a targeted deadline and work hard to achieve your daily writing goals - make some novel space in your life. Create a habit.

As I tell those I meet along the way, read up on what it takes to write a novel, read other novels, and write! It's great that you have a plot, but writing is more than that. Writing a novel is a painstaking yet personally rewarding experience, unlike one could ever imagine, and I do believe you must love the process enough to go into writer's labor and give birth. Don't just talk about it - do it!

Next time, you won't be saying you plan to write a novel, you'll be able to say, "I wrote a novel." And then the true work of raising that novel-child begins!

Do you think every story should be told?


Liane Spicer said...

That's a difficult question, Marissa. I don't think every story should be told, as such, but that everyone who burns to write a story should just do it.

As for the autobiographical element, I concur with whoever said there's no such thing as fiction. Everything I've written so far is partly biographical. I refuse to identify those parts, though. :)

Phyllis Bourne said...

May December Souls came out the year I turned 40. Fortysomething herorines were rare back then, so I snapped your book up and didn't put it down until I'd read every word!

Bluestocking Mum said...

That's so true - I so agree with you Marissa.

Three quarters of my debut novel is based on real life/truth. I'm now at the final stages of it (bit of tweaking - will it ever end?) I may or may not try to progress it. I believe that the story will touch many people because much will strike a cord. However, for me, this novel has been simply the beginning... it is written now and every time I look at it I change it.

For years I said I'd like to write but have always lacked confidence. 'Tango Man' was the spark that made me put pen to paper and write the 90,000 words.

Many people say they would love to write a book. Not many have the commitment and staying power to work and finish it. For some of us, that first novel is the catalyst.
I'm now over half way through a second novel and have started to enter competitions for short stories as well as pursuing the magazine market.

I think that sometimes you have to free your mind of all the baggage...and remember that is our lifes experiences that make us who we are.
That is what gives us the experiences and 'depth' to be able to touch someone with what we write.

(AKA Angel)