Blogging and Novel Writing

I’ve always wanted to write a novel but never had the focus or determination to complete one.  November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWrMo.  The goal of NaNoWrMo is to get would-be novelists to complete a first draft of 50,000 words.  Now that’s about the minimal length of fiction to be called a novel, and most editors usually want twice as many words if you submit to them, but the NaNoWrMo consider 50,000 a good writing marathon for one month’s writing.  Their goal is not for people to complete a polished novel, but just go the distance.  They’ve yet to make December National Novel Rewrite Month, but many bloggers have suggested it. 

Essentially this means knocking out 1,667 words a day of fiction.  I have no trouble writing as many words on a blog post, but fiction is different.  I love blogging and don’t expect to give it up for the month of November.  Blogging is therapeutic for me.  Writing about something that requires research exercises my memory.  And I definitely need help with my memory – it’s slipping away more every day. 

But I want to write a novel.  Of course I’ve been wanting to write a novel since I was in high school over forty years ago.  Rationally I’d think if I hadn’t written one by now I never will.  Well, I’m looking at NaNoWrMo as a shit or get of the pot test.  Either I’ve got to finish a novel now or give up thinking about ever writing one.  All my blogging indicates I like writing essays, which suggests I should work harder to polish that skill.  If I fail to produce a first draft in November that’s what I will do – but for now I want to give it one more try.

What I should do is publish my daily NaNoWrMo work here but that might screw up my chances of getting the novel published in the future.  I’ve read that most authors have to write several novels before the get one good enough to publish, so maybe I’m being too protective of my first first draft.  Also, I believe, and this might be naive, that I’ve got a unique science fiction idea and and I don’t want to spoil it by letting people read a first draft.  However, I might be willing to show versions of the opening here as a marketing research to see if anyone responds.

Working on a novel will seem strange though.  My blogging is about watching the world and reacting.  It’s about looking outward.  Novel writing is about looking inward and creating everything from scratch.  That might be why I’ve never been able to write a novel.  I’ve written about 30 short stories and even 5,000-12,000 words are an agony to produce.  I recently put my best effort online and it sank like a stone.  Writing non-fiction is engaging – writing fiction is lonely.

I haven’t signed up with NaNoWrMo yet, and I still might chicken out.  The idea of coming home from work every evening and turning off the world, shunning all my favorite hobbies to focus on one activity is scary.  I love my evening routine.  Writing fiction will be like working two jobs.  So why do it?  I don’t know.  I read a lot of fiction and I’ve always wanted to create a fictional work of art.  It’s like going to a party and always listening to everyone else talk.  Writing a novel would be like having my say.

JWH – 10/18/11

14 Responses

  1. You should go for it James! I for one would be very interested to read your fiction. I really enjoy your thoughtful posts on this blog. In fact should you decide not to do the novel, you should definitely put some of your essays together in a non-fiction book. I’d buy that for my Kindle.

    Good luck!

  2. Heh, heh. For some of us, writing non-fiction is lonely, too, Jim! Almost everything I write sinks like a stone.

    Sometimes, I’ll put a lot of effort into a blog post and come up with something I’m particularly proud of. And then,… nothing. No comments. Not even any criticism. Just nothing.

    Well, you either do it because you want to do it, or you try to write for other people. Ideally, yes, you’d like to do both, but that’s not always possible.

    You’re a very good writer, Jim. But the odds are still against you at attracting much notice from a novel, especially your first. If you can accept that and still want to write, do it! If you have a novel in you that’s trying to get out, write it!

    I don’t think that anyone else can advise you about this. The desire has to come from yourself. I know that you’re a very good writer, Jim. But I don’t know how badly you want to write a novel.

    • I don’t have that many people reading my blog either. You, John and Carl feel like friends because we keep an eye on each other’s blogs. It’s far more social than spending a year writing a novel without any interaction. And I really think your blog does deserve more readers. I try to get my friends to read your blog. I think you focus on a lot of subjects they care about, but blog reading just isn’t popular.

      Your a good writer too Bill. You’re great at analyzing the issues. I think if your essays were in a magazine or newspaper you’d would get a lot of readers.

  3. Wait what did you put online that sank like a stone? If it was that short story I thought it was great and so did my wife.

    As we’ve discussed countless times. I too would love to do more creative writing, but lately I’ve barely found time to read. Too busy vegging out in front of the TV. But I’m sure I’ll lose some of my interest in both of those and focus on writing ago in a month or two.

    • John, maybe you should join NaNoWrMo too. That’s the thing about writing fiction and really wanting to succeed. You have to give up all the fun after work hobbies and work like a fiend to succeed. I’m psyching myself up for November but it’s going to be hard.

      I’m glad you and your wife enjoyed my story, but except for a few online friends like you and Bill, the story never gets hits. Now hits aren’t everything, but if you put hours into writing something you want it to have a life. Fiction or personal nattering on the blog goes nowhere. A handful of my essays gets hits every day. Of course I don’t know if a hit means it also gets read. I don’t think about writing for money, but I do think about writing for readers. If I spend a year of my life writing a novel I’d like to think it will entertain people. I’m not sure how many that is though. I guess if I was reading Zite and got a review of my novel out of the blue, maybe from a blogger, and they just talked about how they enjoyed the story – that would be a good enough ego boost. If I wrote a robot story I’d like to read where some people thought it was a significant addition to robot stories.

      • I too need to develop a thicker skin, it is disappointing when you do a lot of work and put something out there and get little or no feedback.

        But also I think about all the artists and writers that were only appreciated later in life or after their death. “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” comes to mind. That guys wrote 3 novels before he got published and he died before seeing what a hit his books would become.

        So in the end write because you like writing and you need to get the story out and if you are confident in your writing, you never know how or when it will be appreciated.

  4. Why not set yourself a more reasonable goal for writing for the month of November? Why not try to do half of what NaNoMo suggests, or a third? I think most writers agree that simply writing every day is what is important and I think given that you are not at this point trying to make your career writing, you could just set certain days to be your writing days and commit to spending X amount of time just writing, regardless of what comes out. Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down by writer’s block or anything else.

    Rather than trying to radically change your lifestyle, I think you might find success in setting smaller goals and sticking to them in a way that allows you the balance of being able to sacrifice some set aside time for this dream of writing a novel while also giving yourself permission to continue to indulge in your hobbies.

    • I just thought I’d do the NaNoWrMo just as its set up. Many of my writing friends do it every year. It’s meant to be a writing boot camp experience. I figure I can handle it for one month. Also, I get the week of Thanksgiving off, so I’ll have some extra time. I’m also hoping the immersion experience will get me into writing fiction regular after November.

      • I certainly wish you all the best. I’ve had several blogging friends do it every year and I admire the effort and commitment. Just wanted to encourage you though not to let someone else’s rules or ideas stop you from creating your own goals to just get some work done and not worry about the quality of the work.

        Look at the bright side, if you do have to give up some time in November from watching the news and other similar activities you may find yourself happier than you’ve ever been! :)

      • I actually write my blog posts because they make me feel good. They are therapeutic. They are exercise for my mind and memory, and like physical exercise I feel good after completing a post. I’d still do it if I got no readers. And I think if I could ever get into the habit of writing fiction it would feel good too. You think you want readers and money, but ultimately I want to feel like created something. If you make a cool coffee table for yourself you don’t worry about how many people will see it or how many copies you can sell. Not that I’m against making money. But I’m getting old and I need to do things for myself so I feel like I’m accomplishing something.

      • I think it has to be that way. Certainly everything I’ve read by successful writers is that although they definitely had aspirations of fame and fortune they ultimately came to the place of first having to find their own personal joy and satisfaction in the process of creating. Because fame and fortune are so fickle. I think we can all probably name authors/books who are little known and didn’t get the fanfare we feel they deserved but in the end the created something. They put their effort in and can hopefully look at the end result and be proud of it. I know that feeling when I go out and actually do some physical labor and get something done and it feels so good, seeing a finished product and feeling the adrenaline rush of having put my hands to a project and see it completed. I imagine it has to feel the same way if a person can learn to write first and foremost for their own pleasure.

  5. That sounds very neat, perhaps I should try it. Lord knows I need to finish SOMETHING.

  6. Of course one of the differences between writing a novel and writing blogs is trying to put a story and characters into the novel. Wrap it up into a cohesive whole.
    Nevertheless, there are plenty of great books out there with minimal characters, or a deus ex machina to wrap up the last 20 pages.
    Not ideal, obviously, but it doesn’t prevent a work being highly readable, entertaining or successful.

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