ABCs of Novel Writing
It’s always on my mind: When I first started writing this saga three years ago, I didn’t have huge chunks of time to make bad choices and mistakes to speed up the learning curve. If the love for telling a compelling story had been absent or fake, I would’ve never made the progress or learned the hard lessons of merely writing and structuring a story. The muse is always with me. It’s like running into a brick wall. Bludgeoning yourself against it until there’s a crack, is lunacy if you don’t carry a vision in your heart…at all times. It’s more than that simple counterfeit for inspiration: mood. It’s a routine, often boring and tiresome routine. It’s a “I gotta do this no matter what” attitude. In reality, that is how you keep the dream alive, looking for kindling and stoking the fire with routine. You have to make the best of time. It doesn’t matter what mood you’re in.
Early last week I was writing on two and a half hours of sleep after a bout with insomnia the night before. I gulped some coffee and wrote mincingly from 9AM to 1:45PM. At 1:35PM I typed one of the best lines in the whole book, almost by accident. If I had succumbed to the excuses I gave myself, I’m sure I wouldn’t have stumbled—literally stumbled—upon that line.
Be a writer, like a pro athlete or salesperson or guitar player: train. Write/play every day, something. That is the law. Practice taking thoughts from your mind to paper at the very least; get a journal, a blog, write. Get a coach via other writers. When you’re reading a book or watching a movie, get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening to your feelings, your mind. What makes you react? Make notes. Learn from watching “the game”.
Submit to a wise writer. Read books about the art of writing and storytelling structure. I’ve read twenty plus at this point about the art. I know that some so-called storytellers do not read books about the art. To prove it, one can find ample evidence in a stack of vain self-published books. What astounds me is the seemingly complete lack of training and comprehension. Seems to me, if one loves writing, then one would study it. Faced with the odds of being published, many of these vain people wonder why they had to self-published or turn themselves into cheap quasi avant garde rebels, making six books sold into some sort of bohemian badge. I have an odd reaction when reading many self-published authors: anger. I get furious. They’ve put all this effort and money (paying the printer) but obviously spent nothing, including time on the study of the art. I also get the urge to just stop writing now and send my manuscript in. Against this “competition”, I’m a freaking combo of Hemingway and King.
I do acknowledge there are many excellent and/or successful self-published authors. Vince Flynn self-published his first book and there are many exceptions to the rule nowadays. However, generally speaking, “self-published” means the agent or publisher had significant challenges with your work.
If you’re intending to be a successful writer, study the art! Do not leave it to the gods of publishing, luck, or a hunch. Be worthy of your calling. When you pick that pen, pick it up like a highly motivated, highly trained warrior, or like Eddie Van Halen picks up his guitar in his studio away from the crowds.
Creating a compelling story has a high difficulty factor, like spinning saucers on sticks. I had no concept of the intellectual challenge when I started (maybe because I’m so dumb). The odds are against you and me. One has to be on ones toes. The process is one thing, but there are times when thoughts bloom or drift into your mind that are thrilling, awesome…and substantial as mist. Why? Creative thoughts are like dreams; we forget them. As a scientist has a net for catching butterflies, a writer must have a notebook to catch thoughts. I have a notebook named “Thought Catcher” (Dream Catchers hung on the rearview mirror don’t work). Carry one of those little 3×5 composition notebooks; it can fit in your back pocket. I carry one and it’s packed with thoughts, dialog, scenes, character notes. All you need is a reminder, not the full-blown scene or idea. Multiple times, I’ve had a great thought about the story. I assumed since it was so awesome that I would easily remember when I sat down at the laptop or when I got to a notebook. Wrong! It’s like retelling that half-forgotten dream as the day wears on, you remember less and less. Creation dies. Sometimes I forget the notebook. I find a receipt or napkin, and scratch with a pen that’s running out of ink. It’s that crucial. Thoughts fly away; catch them before they do.
I write this to myself as well as others. I need to remind myself to follow my own advice.
Always Be Creating.
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Allen G. Bagby
Allen G. Bagby
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