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Writing a Novel — What a Joke!

By Z.S. Roe

I’m writing a novel – you’re ecstatic, I know.

The good news is that I nixed the original plan to do bi-monthly vlog updates on my novel.  Instead of seeing me prattle in front of a camera about just how many words I’ve written every other week, you’re getting this one blog post.  How’s that for efficiency?

But, really – and let’s be honest here – who really cares that I’m writing a novel?

Because everybody is writing a novel.

It’s the equivalent of saying that later on tonight I’m going to eat pizza for dinner.  Super original, right?

November is National Novel Writing Month, which means all of us English Lit grads who never found a job in our field (these jobs are myths, by the way) are succumbing to the pipe dream that we could maybe make it big as novelists.  Oprah’s Book Club here we come.

In my defense, I started writing my novel in April, so all you Novemberists can suck it.

Still, from the perspective of a sane and rational person, writing a novel is something of a joke, but one that’s more sad than funny.

100,000 words of pure genius, right?

100,000 words of pure genius, right?  Ha ha, you’re hilarious.

Of those aspiring novelists who finish, the vast majority will never see their book published, unless of course they chicken out and self-publish online (note to other aspiring novelists: don’t do it – easier doesn’t mean better).

Most bestselling novelists need a year of full-time work to begin and finish a novel.  Sure, some need less, but then again some also need a lot more.  Unless your novel is published, that’s a year of your life gone like a fart in the wind.

Some say that just finishing a novel is an accomplishment in and of itself.  After all, most novels are around 100,000 words long, which means you’ve put in a lot of work to hit that magic number.  Remember back in high school when you had to write a 1000-word essay and you thought it was just the worst?  Well multiply that by a hundred.  Holy crap, right?

So, yes, writing a novel is a lot of work, and good for you for committing to it.  But if it’s just going to sit in a drawer and collect dust then you might as well have been stacking Lego blocks for the past 365 days.

Unfortunately, for most of us, this is exactly what will happen. We can’t all be great writers.  The next Shakespeare we certainly are not.

This is the hard truth, and I don’t exclude myself from it.  Most novels are failures and mine will likely be only the most recent.

And yet …

And yet every day I sit down at my laptop and write.  I know my chances of succeeding are poor … terrible, in fact.  And I’m not one of those people who can pound out a thousand words in an hour.  I’m a slow writer and don’t find writing to be particularly easy.  Usually, I can’t manage to write any more than, say, 500-700 words a day (I have a full-time job, but even so that’s not very much).  All the same, I keep at it.

Storytelling matters to me, novels in particular.

Is novel writing a foolish pursuit?  Hell yes.  Will I ever stop?  Not likely, no.  I can’t explain it – maybe I’m just not a logical or rational person.  And if so, I can live with that.

And I know I kind of snub my nose at those who take part in National Novel Writing Month.  Sorry about that.  It’s just that during November you all come out of the woodwork and the thought of so much competition is daunting.  During the other eleven months of the year I can pretend I’m the only one.  Getting published seems so much easier then.

But here we are – we few, we happy few, we band of aspiring novelists.  What great fools we make, huh?  Then again, as Shakespeare himself might tell you, the fool is often the smartest person in the room.

Here’s hoping.

Opinion is a monthly(ish) column of just that, my opinion. While opinions are like noses and everyone has one, mine are especially snotty. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.


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