The Passion and the Drive and the Dream To Write A Novel

Posted: June 25, 2013 in Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

I heard somewhere that around 90% of Americans want to write a novel. I wasn’t sure if that was accurate, so I did a little research. Estimates vary depending on what study you read. One article said 200 million Americans, which is about 64% of the country’s population. Another estimate said about 80% of Americans have a novel in them, which would be around 252 million Americans.

Why don’t they? Here are the common answers as I’ve heard them:

(In the voice of a woman I met at synagogue) “I want to write, but I don’t have the skills.”

(In the gruff voice of a 30-something classmate of mine from a couple semesters ago) “Yeah, I have a novel in my head. Got all the characters, the scenes, and the punctuation marks. Just have to find the time.”

(From someone I met in high school) “I would write, but nobody would read my work.”

(The promise from two friends who said it like they were going to win the lottery someday) “Oh yeah, I’ll write a novel. It’ll be great.”

Rich tomes, all from these daredevils we call writers.

There’s some things I’d like to address here. For starters, writers aren’t born with their abilities. We start out fumbling with pen, typewriters, or computers when we’re young, trying to tell a story. Over time our skills develop, rough like stone but then polished. It may take years to do, but we do it. So what if you don’t have the skills? Neither did Shakespeare till he actually tried and learned his craft. You should try it out.

Second, the time to write won’t just magically come upon you like fairies floating in the air or like a dollar on the sidewalk. Nope, we writers carve out the time. I carve out the time between my part-time job, cooking, chores and errands, eating, jogging, and sleeping to write. It’s an exhaustive process, but writers do it anyway. So don’t wait for the time to find you, but instead find the time yourself. It may seem impossible, but I know you can find the time, even if it’s in-between the moments you finish running errands and the moments you go to pick up the kids. Nothing good on TV between those times anyway, right?

Third, don’t assume that people won’t read your work. Sure, it seems like a majority of people stop reading after high school or college. And there are plenty of people who do. After all, there’s plenty of TV-watching, movie-watching, calling, texting, Skyping, chatting, listening to music, and other such activities to do in your spare time rather than read a book. But a lot of the great movie franchises come from people who read books and write them as well. Jennifer Roth, whose novel Divergent is being made into a movie, probably worried that nobody would want to read her work. And at 24, she’s already a bestseller (so jealous, by the way). And she’s probably not the only one: Suzanne Collins, JK Rowling, Anne Rice, Stephanie Meyer, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Mark Twain, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Say what you want on their work, but these people are famous, their books have been adapted into various formats at least once, and some weren’t famous until after their deaths. Yet they still wrote, because they were willing to face the fears that nobody would want to read their work and put it out there anyway.

And with self-publishing, you can even get directly to the readers without having to please the gatekeepers in New York (I’ve got a post about those guys later). So don’t despair that nobody will read your work. There’s always somebody for every writer. I’m sure there’s someone out there for you. Maybe your parents, your partner, your friends, or somebody in Kabul you’ve never even met or heard of just browsing online. They could become your biggest fan.

This is the magic the writer conjures and creates. If we put our wills to it, we can all do it as well.

And finally, writing a novel is nothing to laugh about or say “I’ll do it” with such a casual air. It’s difficult. It’s writing one word–usually four letters, sometimes less, oftentimes much more–after another after another. And the average novel is a minimum of 40,000 words, woven into a (usually) complex story with characters who are developed and grow over time, a plot that we invest ourselves in, wanting to know what happens next, and a magic that is fiction, for though it may be lies on paper (or screen), it seems so real to us. Having the energy to keep writing those words and weave them into the story in our minds is no mean feat. Kudos go to those who attempt it, but special congratulations to those who can stick with it, and applause to those who do it time and time again, story after story. Who says you can’t be one of those people?

So maybe a lot of the American population say they want to write a novel. But only several of us actually have the dream to withstand our fears that no one will read our work, the passion to develop our skills and carve out the writing time, and the drive to keep going when boredom, distractions, life, or various other things come at us and want us to stop from completing that next four-to-eight letter word. We are the writers.

And if you have any of these qualities, I’m sure you can be one of the writers as well. You just have to give it a try.

  1. ohheyitssam says:

    Amen to all of that! I hadn’t heard that statistic but I certainly believe it. Everyone I know wants to write a novel. I don’t think most people understand how much work it really is. Or, on the other hand, they know all too well and let them stop them. Brilliant post.

  2. Isn’t her name Veronica?

  3. christinehaggerty says:

    Writing a novel is hard work. I didn’t have the discipline when I was young to do a full length novel, but I’m ready for it now. I envy you young ones who get such a strong start. Way to go!

    • Thank you. And I’d like to wish you luck with your writing. Like I said, it’s tough to write word after word after word, but it’s an amazing thing when you’re able to do it. I bet you’re going to do great when you try it.

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