I show concerned parents who want to give their children the best start to life how to better understand their children.

9 Dec 2012

How to write a novel - and why not to

Hello everyone
Late entry here.
This is a guest post by Michael Schein.
I don't have any pictures or links to his books or anything like that just yet.
I'll post it when I got it :)

How to Write a Novel – and Why Not To
by Michael Schein

As the author of three published novels, I am met from time to time with some
variant of the following: An aspiring writer will come up to me and say, “I’ve written
poetry and some short essays and stories – but a novel, wow, I’d love to write a novel,
but I don’t think I could do it. How did you do it?”
It is tempting at such moments to wrap oneself in the authorial shroud of mystery,
mumble a few incomprehensible platitudes about extreme characters, setting as
foreboding, and the arc of the narrative – and then shamble off towards the rest room.
But why? Such evasions are a form of narcissism, and besides, the hopelessly beguiled
can’t be warned off so easily. So if you are interested, I’m ready to divulge the great
secret of novel writing:
Get up every morning, or at least five out of seven mornings a week, and write for
a few hours. Unless you are Pynchon or Gaddis, what you write each day should be
connected in some fairly logical or at least aesthetic way to what you’ve written in the
previous days. Don’t edit too much; just get it down, to the tune of 800 to 1600 words a
day. If you can do that, then as surely as 2+2=4, you’ll have a novel within the year.
Novel writing is not nearly as romantic as it is made out to be in the movies. It’s
a job, it’s work, it could even be described as a grind at times, though frankly I never find
it to be as grinding as dragging myself to a real job. At first you might have to kick
yourself in the butt, but like water clearing a channel, the more you write the greater the
flow, until you are transported.
And then stuck. Until you dredge another channel.
My point to the budding novelist is that nobody ever writes a novel, if by writing
a novel one means that great big thing with all the perfect bound pages that’s propping
the door open. Novelists write a few pages, then walk the dog or go to the movies. They
write a few more pages, then do the shopping, cook dinner, give the kids a bath. They
make love, sleep (or pace the floors), write a few more pages, talk to mother on the
telephone. Then write some more.
Then ignore mother, the bills, the kids – for a while. But always, when the
writing gets sticky, they take a walk or mow the lawn. Do all this, and you’ll end up with
a novel.
But the real question is, why? Too few pause to consider why it is that they want
to throw another novel into the abyss. There are far more novels than readers roaming
the killing fields of entertainment capitalism. The novel is an anachronism in this postliterate
world. Make a movie; post yourself on youTube; join the latest fun run. Don’t sit
in an airless dark room, getting carpal tunnel syndrome and gaining weight for nothing.
Yet writers galore imagine that salvation lies in writing a novel and getting it
published. In the age of iUnivese and CreateSpace, getting published is easy. With
KINDLE and Smashwords, even a bit of distribution is within reach. What’s hard is
selling. Selling books is as awful as selling used cars, and far less remunerative. If you
are writing to boost your ego or to make it big, don’t. Writing – no, not writing – getting
rejected and ignored – is depressing as hell. There are a million other ventures where
your odds are better. Nobody has time to read, let alone to read what you write.
Writing is heaven next to the hell of the sell. Sadly, many who write for the right
reasons are less likely to sell precisely because their work is challenging, while the
mercenary writers bogging down the shelves with widget books are cashing in on fifty
shades of pabulum. Please don’t write to sell. Don’t write to be famous. Don’t write to
be the person signing the books, which careens from ego trip (when readers show up) to
slap in the face (when, as usual, you are abandoned in a corner). Believe me, if you are a
person of grace and substance, the marketing paces expected of even the most minor 21st
Century writer will have you sick of yourself before your first novel is in galleys.
So, that’s why not to write and publish a novel. IF – and only if – after all that,
you still have to write that novel, then do it. Do it every day, bit by bit. Write it for the
same reason you breathe. Write it to live, to fill your lungs and cleanse your blood, to
participate fully in the stink of life. We need fewer novels, but we always need more of
the kind of novel that can’t take no for an answer.
Michael Schein is the author of at least two novels and a slew of
poems. His confirmed novels are Bones Beneath Our Feet (2011),
and Just Deceits (2008). Despite slanderous innuendo to the
contrary, Michael allegorically abjures authorship of The Killer Poet’s
Guide to Immortality by “AB Bard” (2012). Michael has taught poetry
and fiction at a number of venues. He is Director of LiTFUSE Poets’
Workshop. His poetry is supported by a grant from 4Culture; it has
been nominated for the Pushcart twice, and stuck to refrigerators by
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  1. Nice post Michael.
    I must agree with you on many points.
    Your writing style is funny and overly dramatic (hilarious).
    I completely get what you saying about selling and the man who writes for the right reasons are less likely to sell.
    I write about parenting and my life and the problems of the world.
    Professionals (teachers, psychologists, etc.) agree with my work, but sadly, the people who I intended to read my book don't want to read it.
    It's dark and scary for them, and highlights problems that they're happier sweeping under a rug.
    Let's just write more fifty shades of poo—give those women what they aren't getting at home—so we can sell it to all the housewives, over my book and others that are a little harder to 'swallow'.

  2. Every word of this is true. There's nothing to add, except, every word of this is true.