A few years ago, I binged Six Feet Under. One of the main characters has an off kilter girlfriend who in one episode decides to write a novel. He says something like, ‘What, so you’re just going to sit down and write?’
‘I guess. That’s what people do right?’
If you’re like me, you hear this and think, Is that what people do? How does one go about writing a novel? Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell you, but I can tell what writing the first 15,000 words of a very rough draft is like.
When I decided that I would finally write a novel, I did what I always do. I Googled How to write a Novel. Six Feet Under is an old show and I’m guessing most people these days start all projects Google. Up came many blog posts and books on the process. You can watch YouTube videos on how to outline, listen to podcasts that debate pantsing vs. outlining, read books on everything from writing fast to writing well to writing strategically, and the kicker is you can do all this and get nowhere. I know. I tried.
The problem is it’s very hard to listen to all of this advice and actually write anything. Even if you have the self-confidence of Frank Abagnale and all of the rules don’t start to scare you, it’s simply not possible to read a book, watch a video, and write pages at the same time. Heck, it’s hard to do any of those two things at the same time.
What’s nice about all of the books, videos, blog posts, and videos is while you’re watching them you feel like you’re making progress when you’re actually not doing much. Finally, I had to lay off the writing advice and start writing.
The Pros and Cons of Actually Writing
You learn fast the pros and cons of actually writing. I would say 1,000 words my first lesson wiggled it’s way through my consciousness: I’m not a secret genius.
Writing sucks, because it kills that dream where you sit down and realize you’re the modern day Proust, even though you’ve never read Proust and the idea of reading him makes your eyelids heavy. Before I banged out the first 15,000 words, there was still hope. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re a secret genius there is an easy way to find out. It takes about two weeks. You can wonder for a life time or find the truth in the same time as the average American vacation.
The good part about getting this far is it’s put me in the game. I may not be a genius but now I wanted to finish this book if it kills me.. You may not want to read it. Nobody might want to read it. Nobody is going to want to read this first draft. The dread of reading what I’ve already written propels me forward. Hopefully by the second draft or third draft, it will be good enough for it to be worthwhile for me to pay an editor to help me. That’s what I’m hoping for, a draft that is good enough that I can pay somebody to read it. I have no idea how many drafts it will take to even get ready for to pay someone to read it. Still, I’m in the game. This 15,000 words put me in and there’s something about being a that is fun and exciting. We’ll see what I think and another 15,000 words or so
Also, if you think I’m being falsely humble, you have either never written 15,000 words of your first novel or you are a secret genius.