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Writing a Novel: What to Expect

My journey to writing a novel began in high school when this crazy idea hit me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I started writing down different ideas and brainstorming how I wanted everything to play out and it was exciting, thrilling and fun. Then, life happened, and I put down the project for a while. I would pick it up here and there, but I never really committed to it, and I think it’s because I was scared. What if I failed? What if I really wanted to take this somewhere to be published and no one liked it? All of these irrational thoughts running through my head about a book I hadn’t even written yet. I realized this past summer how ridiculous it was. I was possessed by this irrational fear of failure when in reality I had nothing to be afraid of because the book didn’t even exist! I had to write something first before I could quit or be scared, so that’s what I spent most of my summer doing. I spent nearly every spare moment jotting down dialogue, figuring out where I wanted the plot to go, what type of characters I wanted to create, and what I really wanted this work to say. What did I want people to walk away feeling? What kind of experience did I want to create? Was it something I believed in? I told myself that it was going to be about having fun and pursuing a project that would help me improve my craft and bring me genuine joy, and this was by far one of the greatest summers I’ve ever had because of it. I couldn’t believe all of the progress I made when I decided to just have fun and not put so much pressure on myself. And although this semester has been crazy and I haven’t had as much free time to work on it, when I do, I feel that same joy all over again.

Now I won’t lie, writing is rough. No one tells you that you’re going to overthink every word you write, meticulously scanning each sentence for errors or ways to re-write and make it better.  You overanalyze everything, stressed because nothing sounds good or original enough­– it drives you insane. It can become so easy to spiral down this rabbit hole of self-deprecation, but it’s only out of an aspiration to create phenomenal work and to be proud of yourself. There will be days where all of these great ideas rush to you at once and you’re feeling super inspired, but then there will be others where you sit staring at a blank page wondering why you decided this would be a good idea. In my experience, I want everything I write to feel genuine and filled with good intentions and, in reality, it’s hard to give that sort of energy all of the time. I’m only human—I don’t always feel that way or have the energy to express it as fully as I would like. At those times when I get down on myself, it’s evident in my writing.

Courtesy: Unsplash

Something to remember is that your first draft is probably going to suck, to put it bluntly. Rarely does anything in the first round of drafting ever feel complete or good enough. You’re always wondering whether or not you could make it sound better, thinking—is there more I can do? Should I revise it even more? It’s not going to be beautiful and always engaging, and it’s probably going to have a million errors, but it’s just a draft. It’s not meant to be your finished product. It’s the skeleton of your work, and that’s all it has to be. You don’t need to have all of the vital organs, the tissue, and a perfectly crafted face, you just need the skeleton. Everything else will get added on through revision and editing (which will be your best friends). They’re like the cosmetic surgeons that come along afterward to make everything look symmetrical and pretty.

As far as tips go, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to keep going, even if you feel stuck. In fact, skip over the blocked parts and just work on what feels clear to you. Have a portion of the plot that you want something cool to happen but can’t figure it out yet? Put in parentheses something to the effect of (hero escapes in a cool way) and move on! Not only will this help you stay in a good groove, but you’ll probably be able to figure out something cool later on that makes sense to fill the gap.

Another tip for getting a good amount of content out on paper is to solely write a dialogue between your characters. That’s usually the most important part of the story, and you can fill in the description later on. A lot of times writers get so caught up in making things sound perfect and crisp that every other part of the story is neglected. This way, you can take your time writing it out but your dialogue or the plot won’t suffer from lack of attention.

Courtesy: Unsplash

Don’t worry so much about what everyone is going to think, that’s if you even decide to publish it. If you’re like me, you tend to think way far in advance and all of the possible outcomes, and I’m here to remind you (and myself) that none of that is important. If you’ve decided to write a book, it should be for you and your enjoyment, not because you want to be famous or prove that you’re some hot-shot writer. You’re already a writer, and the authenticity and hard work you put into your craft is evidence enough to prove that. Books should come from the heart, the genuine soul that seeks to get lost in their crafted worlds that can spark a range of emotions. Books are supposed to leave you with a lingering touch; unforgettable.

If this is something you’ve thought about doing but have always thought that you weren’t capable or that no one would read your work, just go for it! So what if it doesn’t turn out the way you want or you’re too shy to show anyone– just do it for you! There is no pressure to share it with the world or to be this renowned author. When it comes to writing, all anyone is ever asking is for you to be authentic with what you write and to tell the truth you want to express. People will listen to what you have to say, but only if you decide you want to be heard. An extensive project like this reveals aspects of yourself that you never thought you’d uncover. Beliefs and wisdom you thought you’d never breach shoot to the forefront of your mind, and you learn things about yourself like never before. Although the drafting process can be quite tiring and overwhelming, in the moments where you’re on a roll, it is absolute bliss. Happy writing.  

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Katarina is a senior at Florida State University studying Creative Writing with a double minor in Education and Communications. You can find her at your local library reading a good book or writing for her blog https://katarinamartinez13.wixsite.com/kmartinezreads As an aspiring novelist and content writer, she is always looking to spread love and joy everywhere she goes.
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