The two absolute most important lessons to becoming an author are: number one, read and number two, write. I know it sounds redundant; of course you’re going to read, how else would you understand the layout of a book and no sh*t you’re going to write … you’re writing a book. The point I’m trying to make is that these two components cannot just be pastimes, they need to be your life. Novels aren’t like essays or poems, they have their own textual format and it is absolutely vital that you become fluent in its language.
The greatest element of writing that sets it apart from all other artistry is that you always have examples If you’re an ambitious young writer and there is anything to take away from this piece, let it be this: practice your writing every day; I don’t care if it’s on paper, receipts, napkins or bathroom stalls; you need to not only want it but crave it, and once you’ve done all that, read twice as much.
Okay, you’ve done the homework and now it’s time to write but … where to start? I’m sure there’s hundreds of internet articles that would advise you to first choose an idea, map out your plot line, generate characters blah blah blah; you can give that a flip of the bird. It’s bullsh*t.
When I first started working on “The Veranda” I didn’t know I was writing a book; I didn’t even know I was writing a story – just write, and I promise the ideas will come. The same goes for writer’s block, there’s no such thing, only people who stop picking up their pencil; nothing is ever worth not writing. As you progress you will constantly find yourself lost in thought, fantasizing your plot’s next steps to a point bordering on obsession, but it’s necessary; nobody just thinks up a four hundred page story on the spot, it takes time and dedication.
Let’s jump ahead a few months; you’ve finished your first manuscript– congratulations, have a beer, maybe even two, you’ve earned it, but keep the champagne in the cupboard for now, there’s still work to be done. A manuscript is only the bone structure to your story, now you’re going to need muscles and to do that is going to require editing. It’s a word most writers cringe at, it just has to be done. After you’ve strived through the painstaking hours of revising each and every word within the story, you’re going to want to revisit the pages of your labour but you need to refrain from looking, you’re preparing for your final edit.
Like anyone who has ever glimpsed at an optical illusion, it’s near impossible to distinguish until returning to the same image a little later, this can also be said about writing; all of those lines that appeared to be flawless you will later see are sloppy with much required tuning, but it’s not your fault, it can be hard to see them without refreshing your mind. After it’s all done, you will be proud to call the work your own. As for where it goes from there, only God can tell.
The truth is that I could never really tell you how to create a novel, writing has no formula, like a fingerprint, every author has their own literary identity, more commonly known as voice, that they and only they can discover. There is one thing however that unites us all, and that is passion.
To create something truly beautiful and genuine you need to find your niche. There will be times when you’ll just want to throw down your pencil and quit, I assure you that I was no exception and endured my own episodes of near defeat; but that’s when you take that motivation, you channel that inspiration into every word you put down and when you step back you realize it’s not only by you, but a part of you, and that makes all the difference.
On a final note I would just like to say this: writing is not just a tool, it’s a gift and one that can’t be taken lightly. Literature can move mountains and bottle up seas, it has influenced the world for centuries and will continue to do so for many more; it takes a very special kind of person to be able to put his or her pencil on paper and have people sit for hours gawking at their work. It will act both as your sword and shield leaving you to judge, so I will leave you with the wise words of Ben Parker, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”