I can’t remember a time when ‘Write a Novel’ wasn’t the very first goal on my New Year’s Resolution list. Maybe since sixth grade when Tomie Dipaola came to give a talk at my school. I can still remember how electric I felt, realizing for the first time that books came from regular people. I’m not sure where I thought they came from–not a guy who wrote first drafts on yellow legal pads with Sharpie markers. (Those were my tools of choice for a very long time after.)
Certainly since high school.
It took me a long time to finally actually do it. Years. Decades, even. I was 33 years old when I finished the first draft of my first novel. It was truly, truly awful–but I finished it and I knew that if I could write a bad novel, then I could learn how to write a good one. I went to school and studied writing. I went to writer’s conferences. I wrote more books, each less awful than the last. Maybe most importantly I put my work out there (I’m talking about that awful first first draft) and I found the world’s most amazing critique partner. I really hit the lottery with that one.
For eight more years ‘Publish a Book’ was first on my New Year’s Resolution list. And then in 2013 that happened.
Being published isn’t exactly what I thought it would be. It isn’t the pinnacle. It’s not the end game. It’s like reaching the top of the mountain only to find that it’s actually the bottom of the next mountain. And sometimes I’ve found myself stuck. My whole life I’ve just written what I wanted to write with a vague idea in the back of my mind that it would be awesome to be published someday. But I wrote for the love of writing. I wrote despite knowing that I might never be published. I wrote to tell my stories.
And then I reached a point where, if I was going to make a living as a writer, I had to learn to do things a little differently.
No more benchmarking.
I read this in Seth Godin’s book Small is the New Big today:
“I’m going to stop comparing everything to my all-time best, to your all-time best, to everyone’s all-time best. I’ve stopped checking Amazon. Instead of benchmarking everything, perhaps we win when we accept that the best we can do is the best we can do and then try to find the guts to do one thing that’s remarkable.”
And a good friend told me recently that what I needed to do was get back to writing for the love of writing, instead of trying to write to be published.
Smart people are everywhere. They really are.
So I’m going back to my roots. ‘Write a novel’ is number one on my resolution list for 2015. More precisely: write a novel for the sake of telling the story.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I want to bring you all along on that journey with me. Especially if you want to write a novel, too. Is that on your 2015 resolution list? If it is, I think we can do it together.
I’ve been teaching novel writing classes at my local community college for years. My favorite class is about plotting. My students make a plot board and we talk about five key plot points, and I teach them how a three-act, eight-sequence story structure works. I get inspired (so inspired) by their stories. I help them figure out a road map for moving ahead.
We’re going to do that here. Or I am. And I hope you’ll come along and try it with me. It’ll be a six month series and at the end, if you keep up, you’ll have a first draft of a novel. You never know. My first ever first draft completely changed the course of my life. Maybe it will do the same for you.
My Writing Motto.
I just sent that to Staples to be printed. It’s going on the wall next to my desk. Or maybe even on the window right in front of my face. Remember what I said about smart people? Ray Bradbury = one of them. (You should be able to click on the picture and get a printable copy if you’d like one. Someone let me know if that doesn’t work. I’ve never put up a printable picture before.)
I am so ready to be drunk on writing again. Come get drunk with me?
Here’s how A Novel Idea will work.
I’ll teach you about the 3-act, 8-sequence story structure and the 5 key plot points. We’ll make a bare bones road map. Then we’ll spend three weeks writing each of the eight sequences. That’s 26 weeks. Six months. One complete first draft.
During each of the 24 writing weeks, I’ll give a little lesson about some aspect of writing that pertains to that part of the book or that part of the writing journey. There will probably be printables and worksheets and there will definitely be tasks and lots of encouragement. And accountability. You’ll have to write 16 or 17 pages or about 4000 words a week. And so will I.