If you have been paying attention, and I’ve no reason to suspect that you haven’t, you will recall how, after many years of dedicated toil and the destruction of several trees, I somehow wrote 4 first draft novels and a good hundred thousand words of 3 more without really noticing how much writing I tended to do. I had even gone as far as to place myself in front of a computer and recreate one of these novels in an electronic form which could be easily shared with friends and acquaintances, assuming I could make some.
In the end I didn’t send the MS out to query, although I did consider the matter very carefully indeed – and by this I mean “hyperventilated at the thought of anybody, anywhere, at all, ever, finding out I wrote”. I tried to picture myself explaining the plot of my novel to my parents, but happily my brain, in an act of supreme self-prersevation, repressed that one like it has never repressed anything before or since. I don’t think it has anyway. If it has, my inability to recall such an event suggests a hitherto unrealised talent in such areas.
Unlike most people, I have never had the desire to “write a novel”. The thought of going into a book shop and seeing a book with my name on it, there, on the shelf, is neither dream nor triumph. I have no story I want to share with the world. If anything, I’d prefer people not to connect my overly gelatinous form with any printed string of consonents loosly held together with punctuation, let alone one presented in book form. Once upon a time, I felt that if I ever, ever, begin calling myself a writer, I would immediately have to take a flamethrower to my own head.
Two things have prevented this.
- My overly large head combined with the ever increasing price of petrol have rendered this course of action financially unviable.
- I began to take myself seriously.
Last time, I had some mildly dark things to say about sales people who regard the words ‘No, thank you’ as some kind of personal challenge. I complained about their increasing habit of taking my words literally, deliberately misunderstanding me in the hope I will suddenly change my mind and allow them to sell me something. Top tip guys, annoying me is not the way forwards with regards to my buying your goods and/or services.
What we say is, generally, not what we literally mean, despite the hopes of the utility monkeys. When in conversation with a real life meat-world person, our brains are constantly analysing the data we receive, predicting the end of their sentence. Our reply is formed well before they have finished speaking. This biology should also be borne in mind when writing. Read More…
Once upon a time, a hundred years ago or more, when I was shorter than I was now and not yet proficient enough in my native language to talk my way out performing the tasks my Mammy commanded of me while making her think it was her idea to have me not do them, I was taught to smile.
Most people would have learned naturally, I know, but there you are: my childhood was so tragic, I had to be taught how to smile; even Dave Peltzer didn’t sink as low as that.
Ever since then, I have gurned inanely at everybody who crosses my path. It makes me beloved of young and old. It has led to pensioners foisting Wether’s originals on me at bus stations; it has encouraged women to hand me their babies while I’m minding my own business next to a display of Advent calendars; it has caused me to be driven places by a one-armed estate agent in a red sports car.
Unfortunately, it also leads me to get ambushed by every charity touting, utility providing, survey asking irritant out there. I’ve tried not smiling, but I seem to project an aura of goodwill which transcends my scowl and unbrushed hair. I don’t know what causes it because, quite frankly, I hate everybody (well, not you, but that’s only because I haven’t had the chance to get to know you properly yet. I’m sure there’s something about you which will enrage me.).
Thus, I spend an awful lot of my time saying ‘No, thank you.’ I grown to quite like it. It’s a useful catch-all phrase which makes me clear without causing any offense to the person at whom I would otherwise be shrieking ‘Not when you’re getting accommodation and ten pounds sixty-five an hour you can’t.’.
Most of the time it works. They nod, I nod, they gaze past me, I skirt awkwardly round them, they think judgmental remarks about my shoes, I walk back the long way round so I don’t have to look at them again; the system functions as it should.
Some of the time, it doesn’t. They’ve learned. Asking for a moment of my time won’t get me to stop – they have predicted my answer and rejigged their questions accordingly. Now, when I thank them and decline, they gaze in awestruck horror and intone ‘You wouldn’t like to save money on your electricity bill?’ It’s very irritating.
You see, what I say is not always what I mean. I’m saying ‘no, thank you’, but this can have a reality grounded in many different truths, none of which I care to explain to them at that present time.
It might mean I’m too busy to stop right now. Perhaps it means I’m not the person in charge of the household bills. It could mean I’m already with your company or it could mean I’m with your cheaper rival who has me tied into a two-year contract.
Then again, a lot can be said with a few simple words, like Didn’t you see me just buying The Guardian? I power my home with hope and wind turbines. Or knowing me as I do it’s more probable it means I’d love to speak with you about this matter, but there is a cranial conflagration to which I must urgently attend.
Really though, what it means is: No. Just that. Nothing else. I’m not going to change my mind because you talk to me, or because you try to convince me that all of the things I am not explaining to you are wrong and how if I just took a moment to stop, you would almost certainly save me at least 18c a year. It means, and will always mean: No.
Everybody wants to write a novel. I have no idea why.
It’s something which troubles me from time to time. I say time to time, but, quite frankly, I am possessed of a munificently poor memory and am quite unlikely to manage to remember everybody’s wishes with regards to novel writing, let alone the amount of trouble I derive from knowledge of said wish.
Unfortunately, for many the process of writing down words in some vaguely understandable form for a sustained period of time proves too much. They may begin, but they do not complete and so they remain: one day, intending to write a novel.
Happily, there are rules. There are techniques. There are a thousand pieces of advice awaiting You, oh lexical dreamer, and surely, among these methods and orders there is a Key which will Unlock the Writer Within. You will complete that novel. You will secure that agent. There will be an Advance and Publication. There will be a Party, possibly one which includes cheese. There will be Your Book, bearing Your Name, in a shop into which anybody may stroll and, once there, they may take, providing they have first parted with the appropriate amount of their local currency, and it will become part of their life, whatever life that may be.
Among those who one day intend – really and genuinely, honestly they do – to write a novel, there are those for whom the challenge lies not in the idea, or the finding the time in which to do it, but in the completion of said novel. They get an amount of words in and something pulls them away. They swim, thinking they really ought to go back and finish, but there are new ideas and these are better, and we begin again and so it goes, around and about, so on and so forth, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I know many “rules” and I have never found one which worked for me. This is due in-part to lacking the kind of problems which can be solved by rules. It is also due to my inability to remember any rule for the duration longer than the time it took to read it, sometimes not even as long as that. However, I know of many who find them useful and many more who believe an elusive unheard rule is all which stand between them and the millions their book will earn them.
As with all rules, these are not absolute, but if rules have so far failed to work and you remain undeterred in your quest to reach the end of the novel you are so desperately certain you wish to write, you might as well attempt to apply one of these to your life.
Do what you want
There are no writing police. It’s okay to shift the goal posts half way through. Mr Delete Key respects your confidence.
Understand how you spend your time
For many, the question is “How do I finish my novel?”. I would try the question “What is stopping me from finishing my novel?”.
Eliminate the answer from your life. If it helps, I have connections; Euro only, unmarked bills.
Learn How To Care
I am all about the tough love. Actually I’m not, I’m about taking names, but if I wasn’t a wasted auld harriden for whom love is but a distant memory, it would be presented in the tough form.
Nobody cares that you aren’t writing a novel. They do not care you intend to. They do not care you have.
You need to care about it. You need to care more about this than you care about anything else. If you can’t care about this, find something you can care about. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most derivative, nonsensical fan-fiction ever produced; if you care about it then do it. A novel is a big thing to complete for the first time.
Write something from beginning to end and regard it as the achievement it is. Quality we’ll worry about another time.