Why Writers Shouldn’t Rush Their Novels
There’s a growing trend from self-help and ‘how to’ books to lure aspiring novelists into writing a novel in just a few months. There is one website that can help writers achieve a novel in just four weeks. Because it’s that easy to follow their ‘proven to work’ steps. Write, publish and on with the next book!
Except that it’s nothing like that.
Writing a really good novel should take at least 18 months/ 2 years, sometimes longer. Not a few months. And most definitely not four weeks. This is absurd and erroneous. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. But they forget the fact that ordinary people have jobs, families and a house to look after and simply don’t have time to write for long periods. If a first time author writes a book, edits it and publishes within a few months, the book will not be worth reading.
That’s because it’s not just about sitting in front of a computer screen to write. A lot of time is spent on planning, researching, editing, re-writing and a huge amount of time just thinking, because that thought process is an important ingredient in the creativity of writing. That’s something that just cannot be captured in a few months, let alone a few weeks.
Rush-writing isn’t the answer if you want to be taken seriously as an author. It’s easy to tell if a new writer hasn’t planned the story or hasn’t plotted it, because the plot flaws and continuity problems really stand out. The writer hasn’t bothered to solve very simple writing errors. Not enough time has been given to story structure or characterisation or indeed how it’s written, so it’s just a garbled mess and not worth anyone’s time.
The development of the characters and the story is one of the fundamental building blocks of any novel. There is no excuse to rush this process. If you do, you may find yourself up against a brick wall of frustration when the story stutters or it’s not clear what might happen next, or it could be the characters don’t know what to. Rush writing can bring on writer’s block faster than a dose of the flu, yet new writers still fall into this trap.
You can write the first draft of a novel as fast as you want, because it’s the bare bones of the story and it doesn’t need to be perfect – but how much time would you prepare and plan the novel? How much research will be done beforehand? How much time will be spent thinking about how it should be told, what problems might occur with the plot and continuity? How much time will you set aside once it’s written to when you read through and edit? How much time will be spent rewriting? Then the next draft and so on?
If you want to be a better writer, take your time. The ‘I want it now!’ attitude doesn’t work for novel writing. But to become the writer you want to be, time spent on developing the talent and skills, learning how to plot, characterise and write stories is time well spent. You won’t improve if you’re rushing out books at breakneck speed in the misplaced fear that your readers will forget you if you publish six books a year.
You’ll just be the crappy author churning out really crappy books.
The writing process isn’t instant and never has been. There are some things you just cannot rush. This is why first time writers need to learn to be patient. If you wrote your first novel in around six weeks and presented it to an agent, what do you think might happen?
Rejection. Unless you are a literary genius (and that’s rare).
So take your time to write and edit your novel, because that’s time spent developing your writing skills and experience and the key to become a really excellent writer.
So glad you wrote this - having finished my first novel after nine years (with continued support from your blog) I had a second story in mind and used the November, write it in a month, site (we know who we're talking about!) to get started.ReplyDelete
While the discipline of writing every day was quite a spur - I made the effort to get up at 5.30 every morning - real life eventually got in the way, home, children, job, grandchildren, eating, exercise etc etc etc I managed 20,000 words but the idea of hitting 50k and calling that a novel just didn't make sense - the first one had ended up at 105,000 words.
I totally agree that the modern "instant gratification" mentality will never work for writers - quality needs time to mature.
I spent 3 years on my first novel. (I'm one year into my second) I was still re-editing the first chapter when I'd reached the last. The 3 climax chapters of the novel took place in a remote desert. I spent 10 days camped alone in a barren unnamed mountain range out there trying to picture the action.
I thought I was crazy to do all this for one novel that no one will ever read.
So thanx for making me feel normal ... :)