What We Don’t Know About Writing a Novel

If you knew before you started a novel that it would take you over a year to produce a decent draft, would you begin? Would you keep working on it, week after week, devoting every spare hour to it, even if you couldn’t tell whether it was going to be a good novel in the end?

Sometimes I’m glad I can’t see the future because the work of writing can seem endless, but after a point, the issue of time hardly matters. If you’re like me, working steadily on a long, intricate project, let us pause to remind ourselves of two key points:

  1. The time is going to pass anyway. We might as well reach that day a year or more into the future and have a novel to show for it.
  2. Each hour of work isn’t lost. It’s an hour spent intensely alive, creating, puzzling and exploring.

Writing a novel isn’t completing a thing that gets checked off a list. It isn’t a race. Writing a novel becomes a life, and life turns into a novel.

2 Responses to What We Don’t Know About Writing a Novel

  • Do you always start a novel from the beginning or do you find it easier to start from the middle and as the characters get defined, revisit the beginning with who they were?

  • Dear Ashley,
    I always start from the beginning. In later drafts, the beginning sometimes gets changed (with a new point of view, for example) or cut entirely, so essentially, I do what you’re describing by adjusting as the characters become more defined. Thanks for the interesting question!
    All best,

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