Time to put up or shut up

Evie really loves to hear stories, and lately she has been specifically honing in on stories about us when we were kids. The other day I was telling her one of my favorite polished old chestnuts and Sara said, “That’s a really good story. You should write it in a book.”

Since then, I have been thinking a lot about trying to write something a little less “fictional”, and I have decided that it is time to take the plunge into novel territory.

If you recall, right from the very beginning, this entire short story experiment was a gateway into novel writing. A way to get my toes wet, if you will. However, there are a few particular difficulties with novel writing. The thing is, writing a novel is a huge undertaking with no guarantee that you’re actually any good at it. You can will sink massive amounts of time and effort into it, only to find out that your novel sucks and writing’s just not for you. Everybody thinks they are good enough to write a novel, but most of them (most of us) are wrong. How do I know if I’m any different? And even if it is for you, most pros and editors will tell you to just throw your first novel out and start on a second, because your first effort is never going to be any good. So my thinking on that was, if my short stories get any traction, then that will confirm that my writing is decent enough to make it worth a shot. Sort of an insurance policy against all the time I’d be committing to.

Well, that hasn’t happened yet. Although I often feel like I’m on the verge of breaking in, I definitely can’t say I’ve been officially “approved” as a good writer, since no editor has ever selected a story of mine.

Second off, I just didn’t know if I had enough time to put into a novel. A typical young adult novel is about 50,000 – 60,000 words (as opposed to 80k for adult science fiction or 100k+ for epic fantasy). I usually do about 5-6k every three months (in time to submit for Writers of the Future). So call that 1,800 words a month, and we’d be talking right around 31 months to write a typical young adult novel. (And that’s also assuming I don’t write anything else during that 2 1/2 years, which means no more short story submissions…I’m not sure if I’m ready for that! Especially when I feel like I’m so close!)

This is why I haven’t bitten off a project that big before, though I’ve always really wanted to.

So why now? Well, I’m sort of hoping that writing this novel will be something of a special case, since a) it would be personal, b) I’ve been telling a lot of those stories for years, and thus polishing them, and c) if it never sells, it won’t be time wasted, since I will still have produced something that I can share with my family.

But if I’m just writing it for my kids, then you might wonder “Why are you making it such a big project? Why does it have to be a ‘real’ book, and not just something you throw together?” Well, for a few reasons. First and foremost, if I’m going to do it, I’d want to do it right. If it’s not good enough that I would feel comfortable submitting it to someone, then why even try? I don’t want to write a crappy book, even if it’s just for my family. Especially if it is going to consume 3 years of my life. Second off, I’ve always wanted to write a book, so if I don’t try to really do this right then I still can’t say I’ve tried to write a book. I still won’t know if I can really do it or not.

Here’s the thing though: I really don’t think I could maintain working on a novel for 2 1/2 years (or 3 by the time you have re-writes, etc.) That’s just too long to put into one project without losing interest. One of the best parts of writing short stories is that if you lose interest in one story, you can always start on a fresh new idea the next day.

Long story short, if I really wanted to do it, I think I couldn’t do it at the current writing rate.  I think instead what I would need to do is something drastic: no Facebook, heck, no Internet at home in the evenings, no knitting, no movie watching, no playing guitar, no accordion practice, no nothing (except stuff that needs to be done of course, like work, dishes, laundry, etc.) Basically, all free time goes towards the book. I’m going to try for a word count of 3,000 words a week (not too hefty, I know, but a *huge* increase from where I’m at right now). If I could maintain that, I could hit 55,000 words in under 5 months, sooner or later depending.

Hey, people do novels in a month during NaNoWriMo, right?

So, starting yesterday, I’m going to try super-lockdown-writing mode. I’ve already cut Twitter and Google+ and trimmed my Facebook lists and Google Reader. I’ve un-followed, un-subscribed, and de-friended everybody I possibly could (which was very, very difficult in a few cases). Doesn’t matter, time to try out being disciplined. I’m not sure yet how this will affect the blog, but I think I’m going to cut out Friday posts (they get the least amount of traffic anyway), and possibly cut another day if necessary.

I’ve got about 700 words left on my current story, which I can hopefully finish tonight, and then I’ll start in full steam on the novel. ::gulp:: Here’s hoping!

3 thoughts on “Time to put up or shut up

    • Well, I technically haven’t started writing it yet, only outlining. But I will definitely let you know when I have something, even though I’m not really sure yet what that ‘something’ will be!


  1. Pingback: If it’s good enough for FDR… « Is this thing on?

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