[Rather than a wishful dream, Richard Hine’s real ambition was to be a novelist. But in the meantime he decided to try to make his fortune in the world of advertising. And, though the fortune in advertising didn’t quite result in a windfall, his debut novel, Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, launches October 12, 2010. In today’s guest post, the about-to-be author shares how he never lost sight of his real ambition….more or less. ]
When people who’ve known me only a few years find out I’ve written a novel they are usually quite impressed. “Wow!” they say. And, “Congratulations!” And, “How did you find the time?” To these people, the fact that I’m a 47-year-old debut novelist does nothing to detract from the accomplishment.
Others, those who remember me from my brash, youthful, overconfident days, remind me that I’ve been talking about writing a novel for quite some time. “What took you so long?” these underminers ask. They say things like, “After all this time, your novel better be good.” And, “I’ve raised three children since you told me you were going to write a novel. Would you like to see a picture of my granddaughter? Her name’s iPadora.”
I do understand that we live in a fast-paced world. It’s possible to write a novel in 30 days if you really want to. That’s the whole promise of National Novel Writing Month each November. (Or NaNoWriMo if you’re in a rush.)
But what about those millions of people who dream of writing a novel, but aren’t in a particular hurry?
Perhaps you are one of them. If so, this article is written for you. If you follow its advice, you will have written at least one full draft of a novel in 30 years or less. And hey, even if you’re not happy with the result the first time, you can always go back and start over.
1. Set a deadline. The key with any project is to plan it effectively and execute it rigorously. If it’s a big project, like writing a novel, it’s best to establish the overall goal before breaking it up into smaller pieces. With my method, the key is to start out with a deadline that seems eminently doable. For example, tell yourself: “I will finish my novel before October, 2040.” You can do that, right?
2. Relax. Take a breath. There’s no need to be paralyzed by fear. Congratulate yourself on taking that important first step. You are now on the road to becoming a novelist.
3. Don’t start writing immediately. Heck, you’ve got too much to do already. As a reminder, please circle all that apply: Get out of bed. Eat breakfast. Think of a witty Facebook status update. If you have kids, remember to feed them. Do something personal-hygiene-related. Go about your day. Try not to get too grumpy/inebriated/lost on the way home. Don’t forget the kids (if applicable). Check for comments on your Facebook page. WTF? Not even a “like”? Don’t any of your friends get your humor anymore? If it’s a weeknight, cereal’s OK for dinner. Find remote. Watch TV. Remember to brush or remove your teeth. Go to bed. Recite your nightly mantra: “No pressure, I’ve still got 29 years and 364 days to complete my novel.”
4. Repeat step three for eight years and seven months. (But remember to subtract a day from your current time remaining in your nightly mantra.)
5. Now circle your age: a) 17; b) 29; c) 38; d) 53; e) celebrating the 25th anniversary of your 39th birthday
6. Take a long hard look in the mirror. Ask yourself: “What made you think you could ever be a writer anyway?” Don’t answer.
7. Investigate new technologies. Is it possible yet to transmit your thoughts to a computer wirelessly and have them spell-and-grammar-checked and put directly into an ebook format? If not, check again at three-month intervals. You never know when a breakthrough will occur.
8. Sort out your closets. Don’t become a hoarder. Make three piles. Keep. Donate. And throw away.
9. Throw away pile three. You know you can. Don’t second-guess yourself.
10. OK, you can keep one thing from the donate pile. But only one.
11. Clean your house or apartment. If you have a yard, you can also:
a) Build a “writing” shed out back.
b) Move your old couch into the new shed in your yard.
c) Hook cable up in there, too.
12. Ask yourself: “Is my lack of productivity caused by: a) a diet too rich in saturated fat; b) lack of exercise; or c) the 37 cats I have somehow acquired.” If you do answer this question, email it to me. Your answer will remain confidential, and be used for statistical purposes only.
13. Find a medical issue to worry about. If you can’t think of one, use this list of idea starters: i) Gum disease; ii) Did your ears always look like that?; iii) What’s that smell?; iv) Have you taken that “Real Age” test yet?
14. Stop regretting that one item you wish you hadn’t thrown away. Move on.
15. Read lots of critically acclaimed books. Tell yourself you could never write like that. Also tell yourself that you’re not scared of failure, you’re just protecting yourself against future disappointment.
16. Try a new workout regime. Minimum one hour of cardio, plus weight training for your bones. Commit to three sessions per week. After four weeks, reduce to twice a week. After six weeks, stop.
17. Be realistic. Not everybody can be a writer. There have to be readers, too. And seriously, when was the last time you did laundry?
18. Check the calendar. Is it 2038 yet?
19. Find out if that thought-into-novel-technology has been invented yet. If it hasn’t, excuse your French, but F-that. You have a novel to write. Remember the deadline? Everyone else may have forgotten, but you promised yourself, right?
20. Don’t worry if you’re a little rusty. Just tap out a few ideas. Just let it flow. Put on some music if it helps. Remember Lady GaGa? You used to love her. God, how long ago was that? Or maybe try some classical music if it’s less distracting. That’s right. Go with it. Wow. This is good.
21. Next day. Read over what you wrote. Tell yourself: “No. That was shit, actually. No structure and it kind of just drifted into whatever.”
22. Fight that rising panic. Read a book about how to write a book. And a few writer’s magazines too.
23. Find that old short story you wrote. You know the one I mean. The one everybody liked. Read it again. It’s not bad, is it?
24. Ask yourself: “Did I really write something that good thirty years ago?”
25. Go back to step one. Pick your own deadline. Politely ask your spouse/kids/cats to fix their own cereal/dry food for dinner.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Stacey Ballis’s Good Enough to Eat in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Stacey Ballis and Good Enough to Eat. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.