You have an idea for a novel? Do you now.
You think it’ll be great? That it’s unique with more suspense than a Dan Brown book? You and everybody else on the planet.
You think you’re going to get rich and famous? People in the business are snickering.
Maybe you really do have an idea for a great novel, one that just might sell, make you some money, and allow your creativity to soar.
Or, maybe doing so has been a dream of yours for a very long spell, and now you actually have the time and space to begin it.
But the very mention of the idea of penning a book brings the naysayers out in droves.
And the three questions to open this are just a drop in the bucket.
So, let’s list the reasons you shouldn’t write that novel, and answer them as well, so you’ll be prepared when you hear them from well-meaning (or not) family and friends.
֎ What in God’s name makes you think you have any talent!
You know what? Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. But I’ve yet to meet the person wanting to write a novel who doesn’t have some talent. It’s inherent in the desire.
I actually had a boyfriend say this to me, early in my writing career. I wonder if he knows I’ve had 6 books traditionally published now . . .
And that’s all you need—some talent. I’ve worked with people rife with genius, who weren’t willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to learn this craft, and never published.
Conversely, I’ve worked with people with a thimbleful of talent, who did put in all that work. And went on to publish, and publish well.
֎ You’ll never get published!
Well, that’s pretty hard to say if you haven’t written the book.
And yes, Traditional Publishing is a tough nut to crack. Always has been. And even more so today as the industry has been turned on its head the last decade or more.
But you know what? Debut novels are being published every single day. Agents are still looking for that new diamond in the rough.
If it’s going to be somebody, why not you?
֎ Even if you do get published, you’ll never make any money!
Maybe, maybe not. The market is pretty danged fickle, and nobody—not publishing-house editors or agents or anybody—knows what the next big thing will be.
It’s an odd business—one truly of the tail wagging the dog.
The main thing of course is to stick with the old adage: Don’t quit your day job. You can make money in book publishing, but the trick is not to count on it until the dough is in the bank.
It all comes down to the central issue:
Why are you wanting to write this book? Just to make money? Then you might well be disappointed. If the reason is something deeper, follow your bliss and let the money come as it does.
֎ Too much hard work goes into writing novels!
Well, yes, yes it does. While we think in terms of the glorification of the inspirational, creative process, um, that’s only part of the story.
Yep, those times when the creative muse has us flying across the stratosphere are wonderful, breathtaking, bringing together all the joy this planet has to offer!
But the rest of the story, of course, is all that blood, sweat, and tears mentioned in the first point. And those are legendary for a reason.
This is an exacting, difficult road.
Then again, you’re not opposed to hard work, are you?
֎ The Publishing world will humble you to your knees!
Okay, so odds are, your friends and family won’t say this one—unless they’re involved in publishing in the first place. Because “normal” folks don’t really understand how humbling this industry is.
They don’t know all of the “no”s you will receive—at every single stage of the process, from agents to publishers to book reviewers. No one comes out of this unscathed.
But guess what? That playing field is level. Every single person who jumps into writing fiction faces that—by the boatload.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding was rejected 20 times before it was published.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times before it was published.
Beatrix Potter had to publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself.
Louisa May Alcott was told to stick to teaching.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig was rejected 121 times before it was published.
Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language.
The list goes on and on and on. But my very favorite:
When Norman Maclean sent his manuscript, A River Runs through It and Other Stories, to NY publishers, he received a river of rejections. As one editor said, “It has trees in it.”
Thank god they persisted. If they could weather it, can’t you?
֎ All great writers are alcoholics!
So, okay, yes—we have countless examples of this! Creativity and ahhm, mental/emotional struggles do sometimes go hand in hand.
Faulkner was famous for writing while drinking. Hemingway said he could tell the precise point in a Faulkner book where he got drunk.
But flipped-ness aside, anybody can use any excuse to become addicted to substance of any sort.
And while I can personally attest that writing struggles can drive one to drink—whether that owns you doesn’t have a bat’s wing to do with becoming an alcoholic, or recovering from it.
That’s all up to you.
֎ This will take over your life!
Now, this one I can’t dispute! If you take its bit in your mouth, writing will take over your life.
Friends and family will bemoan the time it steals from them.
You’ll no longer be able to read books just for pleasure. My editorial clients tell me all the time I’ve ruined reading for them! But rest assured—the pleasure will return someday J Although I will say, you’ll require more sophisticated reading . . .
A new plot twist will come to you while driving on the Interstate. Frantically you’ll scream to your passenger for something to write with!
You’ll find yourself waiting in the airport terminal, watching folks converse from across the room, and putting dialogue to their lips . . .
And any number of other ways the writing life infiltrates what used to be your normal one.
Oh yes, writing fiction will take over your life. And add depth, richness, layers to everything in your world.
Of course these are by no means all of the reasons not to write that novel. But only one truly exists to compel you do to so: you must.
As the poet Rainer Marie Rilke said, in Letters to a Young Poet:
“Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself this: Must I write?”
In the end, that’s all that matters.