Nine things I learned about writing a novel

  1. Characters will do whatever the hell they want and get a writer into all kinds of trouble if left unchecked. My job is just to keep a detailed record of what they’re doing and reel them in when they start going crazy (I can always edit later).
  2. As a writer, I spend 90% of the time on my novel just thinking about it; 5% is actually spent writing and the remaining 5% is spent trying to remember all the brilliant ideas I was too stupid, sleepy, lazy, or forgetful to jot down.
  3. Creating a map of my fictitious location turned out to be an indispensable tool, even if I eventually decide not to include it in the final work. Ditto for a timeline.
  4. NO WRITING IS WASTED (part 1): Some of the writing I love the most (though not necessarily my best) gets deleted in the interest of advancing the plot; however, that doesn’t keep me from saving the deleted bits in a separate folder for later.
  5. NO WRITING IS WASTED (part 2): When first getting started, I found the single most important part was putting something on the page, anything, no matter how bad it sounded initially. You can’t improve, enhance, or edit a blank page. Even if I ended up trashing it, at least I initiated some kind of process.
  6. Whether out of excitement, impatience, naiveté, or ego, I learned the hard way to never EVER show anyone your first draft (with apologies to those who’ve read it). As Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” A novel will never be worse than in its first draft form.
  7. You always hear “Write what you know.” I’ve found, rather, that it’s more important to write what you love. Even if you don’t know that much about a subject when you begin (and you probably don’t know half as much as you think you do), you’ll learn a lot as you go if you’re passionate about it.
  8. When someone says that something about your story doesn’t work, they’re usually right. When they give you suggestions on how to fix it, they’re invariably wrong.
  9. It’s not your job as an author (or any kind of artist, for that matter) to please everybody, or to be everything to everyone (… unless you’re the CBC). Write YOUR story as truthfully and honestly as possible, and don’t apologize. Whether it pisses somebody off is a secondary concern.


(no, this isn’t my laptop)

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