Can I really write a (readable) novel?

To get straight to the point, I would really like to write a novel. No, that’s not quite right – I feel compelled to write it. Let’s set aside any question of talent or ability for now: I don’t know if I have any of either.

But, I have had a plot idea banging around the inside of my skull for a couple of years, and I think it has real potential. I’ve made some effort over the past year to carry out some research, complete a plot outline, and complete a course on creative writing, which has helped me build a rough framework.

And yet, until two days ago, I had not penned a single word due to apprehension and fear. I have no experience of creative writing. I have written dissertations, business reports, instruction manuals, class lessons, lesson plans, etc., but none of these really prepare me for the task. At least I think I have a reasonable grasp of the english language and can structure a written document, which is some sort of a beginning….

I eventually came to the conclusion that, even if it turns out an awful catastrophy, I should just go for it. My inner voice tells me I will learn as I go, and will improve through making mistakes. Unfortunately, my book idea is based on ongoing scientific discoveries in the field of bio-chemistry (DNA to be as specific as I can without giving my “gem” of an idea away), and I know I will have a challenge ensuring that I write with a degree of scientific accuracy (so that the plot will be plausable) while making the concept easy enough to understand to fit “thriller” genre. At this point, you will just need to imagine all kinds of corporate conspiracies, cover-ups, double dealings and perhaps a little murder. Although I hate to admit it – it’s inspired a little by the “Dan Brown” school of writing, but hopefully not so “clunky” (sorry, Dan – I’m sure your success / millions will cushion you from such minor criticisms).

Nontheless, I want to try. And so I reach out now to those in the blogging world to share with me their experiences of writing their first novel. How did you begin? What compelled you to believe you could do it? What doubts did you (or others) have? How did you overcome these. What was the end result? What advice would you give to some poor soul who has deluded themselves into thinking they could be a writer?

Please try to be kind, and in return I will keep blogging as I make progress or hit metaphorical walls. Maybe I can get to the end of this and finally “scratch the itch”.

Over to you…

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8 Responses to Can I really write a (readable) novel?

  1. I was very young when I wrote my first completed novel… 12 or so. It was over 200 handwritten pages (and even then I wrote small), but being young and not knowing anything…. it found it’s way to the garbage. I’ve tried to rewrite it since, but have been able to do so. I have had many other projects over the years but have not finished a single thing since that first. This November that is all about to change.

    http://www.nanowrimo.org

  2. Sorry that’s supposed to say, I have not been able to rewrite that first novel.

  3. brooklindsay says:

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks for linking to my blog! Sounds like you’ve got the plot idea roughly worked out for your novel, which I think is the hardest part (and why I got sick of outlining). You’ll always have some doubts- about not being a “real” writer, about capturing that scientific language for your DNA plot line, etc. etc. It’s easy to let these doubts talk you out of even trying to write the novel. The harder and more noble course of action is to recognize these doubts and then go ahead with your project anyway. The only definition of a writer is someone who writes.

    I aim to write 1000 words of fiction a day, as I’m trying to get my novel off the ground too. I chose 1000 because a few pages seems like a doable but still challenging goal to hit on top of my other work obligations. NaNoWriMo sets the bar even higher (I think it’s something like 2500 words a day to reach the word count in one month). Whatever number you pick, I think a word count helps get over that fear of the blank page, it forces you to stop editing so much, and also gets you comfortable with writing a crappy first draft. It’s not a matter of quantity over quality, but more about trusting that the quality will come if you treat your writing as serious work that you do on an everyday basis.

    • Bob Bennett says:

      Hello Brooklindsay,

      I just wanted to say “thank you” for taking the time to provide such a detailed and sincere comment.

      Like you, I have work commitments and don’t think I will get anywhere near the NaNoWriMo target. Perhaps 1000 words per day, 3 or 4 times per week. But, I am still motivated to give it my very best effort, and knowing that there are people out there, like yourself, encouraging me to succeed is more than I could hope for.

      Regards,

      Bob

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