The Hard Work of Writing a Novel

“Writing is hard.”

This phrase has cursed me ever since I started work on getting my novel published. Authors say it, agents say it, editors say it…everyone says it. When I tell people I’ve written a book, I’m usually met with either disbelief or awe. It doesn’t even matter that my novel isn’t even close to publication. It just always seems like people are impressed simply because I managed to put a bunch of words together into a somewhat cohesive storyline in my free time.

But…writing isn’t hard.

It’s never been hard for me. In fact, I’ve been trying to write a book since I was seven years old. My first grand attempt at novel-writing was on an electric typewriter and it was going to be a series similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events about a family forced to move around the country. I was just trying to cope with the fact that my family was about to move so I tried to write about it. Obviously it failed because, you know, I was seven years old and using a very outdated form of technology, but the point is that even seven year olds with an affinity for reading can write.

However, writing a good novel is hard.

Anyone can write. You just need the ability to read and write to write. But it’s the strategy of creating beautiful characters with elaborate back stories, intricate plots with intertwining storylines, and putting it all to a rhythm only words can create that makes writing hard.

For example, let’s analyze the book I wrote in junior high. No, this isn’t the book I’m trying to publish. This is an entirely different book I finished writing a year before I started writing my current novel and that no one other than myself has read. There’s a reason for that. It’s because it’s terrible. Do you know why it’s terrible? Because writing a good book is hard.

Writing it was not hard. I made up a cast of characters with somewhat varying personalities, there was some plot, there were emotions, and yes technically it’s a book because it’s a somewhat lengthy story with chapters and everything. But it’s not a good novel. The dialogue is lazy, the characters are frustrating, and it’s simply rushed. There’s also the matter of using Hannah Montana and Jonas Brother song titles as chapter titles, but you know I prefer to refer to that as “artistic expression.”

very original
If you need to know anything about my music interests in junior high, my chapter guide can help.

Despite the low quality, this book was easy to write. A lot of the characters were based on people I knew with the main plot based on an event in my life so it was easy to just take those aspects directly from my life and stick it in a book. It was easy to make a cohesive plot with a central theme that remained consistent throughout the story. But if I decided that this first book was worth publishing and went back to edit it, it would actually be easier for me to completely rewrite the story than to try and salvage that mess.

It’s the same thing for the novel I’m working on publishing now. While the first draft only took me six months to finish, it took me five years to make it worthy to be read by others. Even now after almost a year after I formally finished my novel, I’m still re-writing and re-shaping my novel so that it can be worthy of publication. It has taken a lot of trial and error. My poor friends have endured many drafts and many late-night text messages that probably make no sense to them. I’ve re-written the first chapter so many times that I confuse myself on which version is being used in the most current draft. I’ve quickly learned that if I cut a novel from 140k words down to 85k words, it’s not going to be the same novel and it demands major rewrites. Even now, I’m writing this blog post to delay the major rewrites planned for the entire first half of my novel. By the time I’m done with the re-writes, I’m positive it’s going to be an entirely different novel from the initial first draft.

But even though writing a good novel is a seemingly impossible task, it’s one of the most fun challenges I’ve taken.

For all of the misery it gives me, I actually sort of enjoy re-writing portions of my book. It’s fun to see what new things I can do with a story I’ve known for over five years. I enjoy the breakthroughs after long nights of hitting my head against my desk trying to think of a new plot point. Trying to rewrite an entire novel you already finished is tough and heartbreaking, but it’s so worth it when you know you’re just making your story the best possible quality you can make it.

Writing a good novel can be hard, but if you truly love writing and believe in your heart that your story is worth sharing then it’s the easiest thing you can do.

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