Thursday, March 3, 2016

Chuck Wendig Tells the Truth about Novel Writing in Two Sentences

People like sound bytes. There's something comforting in being able to take a complex, or even frightening topic, and sum it up in a short, witty way that makes you smile. Novel writing, unfortunately, doesn't typically have this luxury. How many times have you, awkwardly on the spot, said something like "Well, there's this guy (a character!), who lives in this place (a setting!), and does this thing (a plot point!)..."? If you're like me, very few, but you didn't need many times doing that to realize novels are more than their component parts. They're solitary* pursuits that push authors** to explore the deepest reaches of their minds, to expand upon literary traditions in ways that haven't been done before... I picture novel writing like this:

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It's the opening of the mind combined with a flash of light for every idea. It's taking advantage of your brain to any extent you desire. It's something you can only do yourself, to absorb all the credit and all the blame. It's, to quote Chuck Wendig, this:

Nobody can do this shit for you. When it all comes down to it, you’re the one motherfucker who can slay this dragon and make a hat from his skull, a coat from his scales, and a tale from his tongue.

If there's one thing above all else that can make someone work all hours of the day and night on a project that, statistically, probably won't pay a cent, this is it. Why write a novel? Because only you can write this novel.*** One of the reasons many jobs are undesirable or uninspiring is because of how fungible the workers are. Although bookstores' shelves burst with novels in every genre, they aren't bursting with a thousand variations on your novel. If you're aiming for something loftier than a stock romance novel, if it isn't there, it just isn't there.

Oddly, the above quotation comes from Thing #22 in an old post about NaNoWriMo. I refuse to endorse NaNoWriMo, but I think Wendig's post is useful for considering any sort of novel writing, especially on a timeline.

Write, then, and write you.

*I love writing groups dearly, but when it comes down to it... read the next paragraph.
**Good authors, at least.
***I'm breaking my rule against starting sentences with conjunctions here. I think it adds effect in this situation.

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