Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How I Wrote A Novel


People have been asking me how I ever found time to write a novel.  Well, I have a confession to make--it took me five years. I like to compare my writing process to the story of the tortoise and the hare.  It's easy to make a heroic start at a project like the hare sprinting at the beginning of the race.  What's harder (but more fulfilling) is to make a little effort day after day.  I'll admit I didn't always take the time to write when I should have.  There were months when I was incredibly consistent with my writing, but there were also a couple of years when I hardly wrote at all.

I found some advice from other writers to be particularly inspiring.  John Bytheway, a motivational speaker and writer, said that he found the time to write his first book by giving up his television time.  I haven't given up TV altogether, but a lot of times I've skipped my TV time to write.  Sometimes I've just spent a few minutes writing.  Other times I've had an hour or two to write.

Lance Larsen, a poet and BYU professor, gave an inspiring address for writers called "Coaxing the Muse: Thoughts on the Creative Process."  He said that you can't write well unless you're writing every day and reading good books.  I blame Lance Larsen for turning me into a copycat.  He taught me to read excellent books and look for ways to imitate another author's techniques.  Sometimes we get into a "don't plagiarize" mindset and think we should be completely independent of other authors' ideas.  I've learned that you can imitate without plagiarizing.  In fact, I can point to specific aspects of my novel and tell you what book I was reading when I wrote those parts.

Brad Bird, the writer and director of Incredibles, explained that he had to revise his script over and over again.  But, he also said that at some point he learned that he had to stop revising and let the public enjoy his story. This helped me realize that if I'm too much of a perfectionist, no one will benefit from my art. 

This year  I set a New Years' resolution to finish revising and submit my novel for publication.  I wrote my final chapter in January and sent off a manuscript to a publisher.  I collected a rejection letter in March but forced myself to send the manuscript to another publisher that same week.  In April, I signed a contract to have it published.  My happiest thought after signing the contract was that now I'll have an excuse to write another novel. 

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