Novelists are in the wrong profession.
They make lies believable in order to illuminate Truth, when they should be writing self-help books about real-life Process.
That’s because writing novels has as much to do with words and imagination, as cooking a meal has to do with food.
The clue is in the verb, or doing word.
This is the difference between mooning over the magic formula of Donna Tartt’s running routine, and sitting your pseud derriere down at a computer without a Starship Enterprise dashboard of accessories to ease the unbearable agony of tapping on a keyboard.
On Family Fortunes, 78% of Our Survey would say ‘Talent’ when asked what successful novelists have in common- and this would be about 92% true.
What’s 100% accurate of 100% of them is that they have mastered ‘Application’.
Application sounds practical and level-headed and about getting your homework in on time.
Actually, it’s more akin to the fruits of 17 years’ regressive therapy.
So if you’re thinking about writing a novel, consider narrative voice and plot structure.
Finesse your style, envision well-rounded characters, and hone a compelling theme.
Do a course, buy books on your craft, and draw inspiration from writers you admire the most.
Then take all of this impressive papery stuff into your little-used study, and pop it away in a draw.
For the first work to be done is personal.
1. Think Negatively
You are almost certain to fail; embrace this.
You have a greater chance of bumping into David Cameron in Streatham outside of election time, than your fiction has of venturing out of Microsoft Word.
Don’t try to believe in yourself, or mouth affirmations in the mirror: ‘Your voice is unique’; ‘Your conjunctions are beautiful’ etc.
Make peace with the misery of your reality, so that you can enjoy the misery of your journey authentically.
At the heart of tragedy is hope.
2. Be Fearful
If the wannabe novelist’s fear set was matched to a sound, it would be the cowering, whimpering, whingey one of a two-year old narcissistic Emperor.
Fear of not completing.
Fear of completing, and it being rubbish.
Fear of completing, and finding it OK, but others thinking it’s rubbish.
Fear of completing, and finding it OK, and others thinking it’s OK, and then not knowing what to do next.
Fear of disappearing up your own arse while doing the above.
A shrink would rather wave Sean Penn clutching a bad film review into their treatment room, than listen to your paralyzing ‘concerns’.
Fear is an advance paycheck on something that might not happen; try to find a senile benefactor to apply this to your novel in a monetary sense.
3. Make Gargantuan Sacrifices
Just because you have dreams about pouring out the immortal closing sentence of your oeuvre in the shade of Eucalyptus trees, doesn’t mean the preceding 79,962 words will waft out effortlessly in monthly quarter-hour chunks.
Same as going on a diet, what are you prepared to give up?
What’s your battle plan?
It almost certainly doesn’t involve ‘you’ time; withdrawing from your friends’ bank of goodwill over beers, by walking them through your narrative arc; or Box Sets of any sort (and, no, ones based on literary works are not research).
Take every habit and adorable ritual that puffs out your day with perceived value, and pulverize it.
Novels don’t get written in spare time; that’s the preserve of Amazon customer service questionnaires.
4. Seek No Support From Friends and Family
There is a school of thought that espouses the virtues of setting an intention, and keeping motivated by sharing it with as many people as possible.
This comes from the same school that gave you the English prize, and encouraged you to read your moving story out to the class, thereby cementing in you the godforsaken notion that you are a gifted writer, and that after you’ve read to them everyone will clap, with love in their eyes.
No-one has asked you to write a novel.
Few people will want to read it.
Most of those you tell you are writing one will humour you, and tell their partner you’re a wanker when they get home.
Your nearest and dearest will pity-whoop and cheer you on, in the same way as if you were coming last in a marathon wearing a Simon Cowell suit.
Stay silent and secretive.
Better for people to regard you as a waste of space, than as a deluded flunker.
5. Stop Being Kind To Yourself
Unless you have a story that so blindingly needs to be told, you feel like the woman at the bus-stop (only with a gag and a laptop) chances are, you think you can wait another day to spill 500 more words of your protagonist’s fake journey.
Self-love is the novelist’s nemesis.
Over-ride every single natural instinct in your body, which is hard-wired to protect itself from all energetic output, including the gym, and thank you letters.
Don’t wait until you are flooded with warm, fuzzy creativity.
Don’t ‘check in’ to see whether this is the right time for you, or decide you’ve got a cold, and can’t think of any good adjectives.
You have no deadline, because nobody gives a flying horse if you write a tome, or not.
In fact, they’d consider paying you not to write it, so then they won’t have to read it, and your failure will throw shards of forgiving light on their own cretinous life.
First, visualize the highest-achieving, most venally repellant person you know laughing in your face, and fashioning the ‘L for loser’ sign on their foreheads in the excrement of John Updike.
Then, be your own worst nightmare; if you feel uncomfortable, and out of your depth, you’re doing something right.
6. Have Fun!
You’re not raking over dead bodies.
Nobody’s life depends on you.
You like language, and made-up stuff.