There are a several checkpoints when you’re an author–little squares on the career Bingo card that are pretty much inevitable. They’re marked with things like “Join Writing Group,” or “Submitted First Short Story,” or “Finished First Novel.”
One that all writers who’ve been in the game long enough encounter is the one marked “Meet person who dismissively says that they could write a novel.” Now, I won’t lie, there used to be time when I met that statement with a bit if ire. No one wants to have their accomplishments dismissed, diminished.
And let’s be clear. Writing novel is an accomplishment. Doesn’t matter if it’s good. Sitting down and putting in that kind of effort, word after word after word–at least 50,000 of them, for example–that’s something to be proud of.
To have someone who, to the best of your knowledge has written nothing since college, proclaim that they can do what you just slaved over, and do it like it’s nothing. Well, yeah. It can hurt.
But I’ve learned to take a different track when I hear this. Because I’m never going to stop hearing it. And I’ll be damned if I want to be dismissive of someone’s goals!
Because what? You can write a novel! It’s not like other arts where materials are expensive (for instance, my cohort might sell someone’s kidney for high-quality markers in the near future). Writing requires pens and paper at the very least, access to a computer with a word processor being even more ideal. That’s a threshold most people can reach. The only other thing that’s required is encouragement, an idea, and effort.
That’s why I love National Novel Writing Month so much. The goal is to write a novel in a month. 50,000 words. 1,667 on average every day for 30 days. It isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. It is both easier than you think and harder than you can ever imagine. And it’s a challenge I encourage everyone to take.
For everyone who thought they had a novel in them, this is their chance to find out. For everyone who needed an excuse to start that great book, get writing on November 1st. Don’t find time to write. Make it. Carve out and dedicate an hour before work or school, or maybe an hour when you’d usually watch television. There are a lot of empty hours we fill consuming media that you don’t actually need. An hour a day. More if you can. Aim for that 1,667 a day and don’t beat yourself up and quit if you fall behind. Look for a weekend to try and make up the deficit. You’ll get faster as the month goes on which will make up for the days when writing 100 words is as painful as peeing a flaming bowling ball. But you have a novel in you, and sometimes birth takes a bit of pain.
In short, put up or shut up.
Because I believe in you.
You can write a novel.
All it takes is to do it.