Writing The Novel: 10 Things I Learned While Writing My Novel

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The title should actually say, 10 Things I Learned About Myself When I Was Writing My Novel.  Because throughout this process, I was not only finding myself as a writer, but I was also discovering who I really am as a woman and finding the place that I wanted to occupy in this world.

Here are ten things that I learned:

  1. Having anxiety is normal. In the beginning, I had anxiety when I stared writing. I could outline or write character profiles all day long but when I began writing, I would clam up or I found myself fighting anxiety while I was writing. I learned that I had to work through it, realize that this was normal for creatives and process it through my journal until it became normal.

  2. Write wherever you are. There is no perfect time to write. In the early days of my novel, I found that I was often waiting for the "perfect time" to write. An idea for a chapter would pop into my head and I would make a note on a scrap of paper and then wait until I got home to start writing. It took some time, but I learned that following that urge to write wherever I was----on the train, in the park, in a diner or coffee shop, on the bus etc. ---was just as good as sitting in my home office.

  3. Carrying a little writer's notebook with me at all times is a must! I was inspired by the late actor/writer Jackie Curtis from Andy Warhol's circle, who did the same. Scraps of paper can accumulate pretty quickly and sometimes a little notepad isn't enough!

  4. Creating a Novel Notebook (physically or digitally) is very important to being organized in the writing process. After months of writing every little idea or note on scraps of paper, I had accumulated a pretty thick folder. Going through it and organizing it into a file to be used and then into an outline was so important but also very time consuming. After doing it one time, I vowed never to start another project without being organized from the jump.

  5. Be organized and structured in the novel outline and support materials. It is the only thing I found that I could control and as a writer it allowed me to be more creative when I got to the actual writing. I tried the approach of free-form writing without it and it just didn't work for me. Also, I found being more organized in life and at home made the writing so much easier because I had more time to write and less distractions when I sat down to do so. I found that I didn't feel guilty when I was not writing and I was not thinking about the fifty-million things I needed to do when I was writing.

  6. Do not overwrite. It creates more work for the editing process. Once I got going in the first novel, I found that I wrote every chapter or scene that I could imagine for my characters. Being free in my writing made me overwrite in some areas and made the editing process more difficult. There were more chapters to wade through and I found myself reluctant to make cuts. In future projects, I will work to be more concise from the beginning.

  7. Trust yourself to tell the story and trust that the reader will understand what you wrote and what you are trying to say. It is very easy to question yourself when writing something new and I found that I had to learn to trust my own voice and to know that I had something to say and something to share with the world. I didn't have to write the perfect story with the perfect characters or be the perfect writer, I simply had to be myself and let the readers decide if they wanted to get to know me as a writer better.

  8. Let the story tell itself. The story decides the way it should be told. Whenever we try to force the story to tell itself in a specific way, we will lose. I started my novel in the first person POV but when I read that the first-person POV is often frowned upon by critics and some readers, I went back and rewrote the first thirty pages in third-person POV. I continued writing for another twenty pages before I realized that my story did not want to be told in this way. So, I had to rewrite the first fifty pages back into first-person POV. Ugh! It was exhausting! I learned then and there never to doubt my first instinct and to let the story decide the best way to tell itself. As writers, I think that we are only vessels for our characters and stories to tell themselves.

  9. Becoming a master storyteller is a life-long journey and it's okay to study the craft and to study the masters but never stop writing! In my early days of writing this novel, I got frustrated with my own lack of knowledge in the craft. I realized that as long as I've been writing (since a five-years old), I didn't know everything about the craft. (Surprise, who does?! We're all still learning!) One glance at the Writer's Digest and I realized that I still had a lot to learn. So, stopped writing for awhile and read writing books, articles and blogs. (Books like "I'd Rather Be Writing" and "Writing Down the Bones" and "The Gotham Writer's Workshop Guide to Fiction.") By the time that I took up writing again, it took awhile for me to stretch my writing muscles again. I learned through this process that you should study the craft but to never stop writing. I learned the hard way to say No to perfection.

  10. It takes time if you want to do it right!! I remember complaining about how long the project has taken me to a few friends, who were also creatives, and they gently reminded me that creative projects are labors of love. Most creative artists take a long time to produce their first work and that it takes place in God's time, not my time! When I began to take this approach, I realized that they were right! Writing this novel has been an intense labor of love---a long labor of love. But throughout this process, I learned so much about myself, about life, my writing style and gave birth to a project that I am extremely pleased with.

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It's been a process and while has not always gone smoothly and taken some time, I have to say that I am proud of my work and can't wait to share it all with you this August 2018.  If you know me personally or follow me online, you know that I've been talking and posting about my novel for some time now.  But it's now time to share my hard work with you and good things come to those who wait.

Thank you for waiting patiently and offering your words of kindness and support.

Naj