How to Write a Novel: Step 2, or, actually, let’s make that Step 1 continued...
When I ambitiously started this little project, apart from ruthlessly choosing to split an infinitive or two in the quest for conversational style, not to mention other grammatical anomalies, I had visions of a neat, linear group of posts that would follow one from the other and provide a guiding light for others who, like me, are on the never ending quest for knowledge.
And then I started thinking.
Learning to write is not a sequential process. It is an amorphous whole.
Nor is learning to write something that ever stops, or, there is no neat Step 1 to Step 10. There will always be further steps to take. Or half, quarter or even one-third steps to squeeze in.
For instance, I talked about perseverance in my previous, optimistically named Step 1, post, and really having to want to. I talked about working my way through rejection and still wanting to.
I didn’t talk about the discipline of sitting down at my computer regularly and writing. Even when I am tired. Even when there is so much else to do that I really haven’t got time. Even when I feel like I have hit a snag. Even when I know that what I am writing is absolute rubbish.
I only brushed across the problems encountered when the people around you discount your hopes and dreams.
These, too, are part of perseverance. Of wanting to be a writer so much that it hurts not to write.
Of these two additional strings to the bow of perseverance, the first can be my downfall, because I am one of those people who throw myself into everything wholeheartedly. I may not be good at ‘it’, but I’ll always give ‘it’ my best shot. Time becomes my enemy, because it refuses to expand to fit in all the things I seem to have to, er, fit in.
I will write about how I’m working my way through this, but I suspect that is definitely a post unto itself. Later.
The second? I am lucky. I have people around me who probably believe in me more than I do myself. Despite the misguided intentions of teachers and vocational guidance counsellors, theirs was only a sin of omission. They didn’t know what to suggest.
Also, it was occasionally quite funny – like the guidance counsellor who thought that perhaps I could become a maths teacher (because I was good at music). My maths teacher would have been reaching for the hard liquor at that stage.
Fortunately, and I will always be grateful for this, my parents always encouraged me to take whatever direction in life that I wanted. They trusted me. Hence I went to university and studied for my own elucidation and pleasure, rather than for a career. Twice.
I also married a man who has upheld my passion for writing and helped me move further along the spectrum of my learning, every step of the way.
It was he who, when I said, wistfully, that I needed one of those fancy typewriters that let you type and edit a sentence before you printed it out (because I am a dreadful typist), said ‘no, you don’t’, and next day brought home a personal computer. For me. To write on. Back in the days when hardly anyone had a computer at home. When I was a stay at home mum, and we were on a single income.
It was me, you see, who decided to go get a ‘real job’ and become a teacher. Which is a funny story in itself, because I was never going to be a teacher!
And I don’t regret it, because I write for children, and believe me, children are way different to when I was one (although, I really don’t feel much like a grown-up yet). But also because I am passionate about education (and helping children learn to read – once you can read, you can learn anything you want), and I am so aware, that, despite the best intentions of teachers, something is broken.
But, if someone was trying to make me give up writing to ‘be sensible’ and ‘get a real job’, then I know that the reserves of perseverance would have to be far deeper, just to overcome my own limited self belief.
If you are struggling to be taken seriously, the only advice I can offer is to seek out like-minded people. Join a writers’ centre or a critique group... do a course. Prove to yourself what you can do, and others will follow. And take heart that some of the people who have achieved the most, have done so under adverse circumstances.
And comfort yourself with the knowledge that the ‘real job’ can be the venture capital funding your art (I can’t remember where I read this, but I have it written on a post-it note, stuck to the shelf above my desk). This is reality for most writers (of fiction). Not JK, maybe. But most of us.
In the meantime, you will have to be more resilient and more determined than ever, because it is so easy to let other people’s negativity wear you down.
Really. Join a Writers’ Centre, or a Writing Group like SCBWI, or RWA, or CSFG.*
Be a Writer.
And, (and this is also on a post-it note stuck to the shelf) to quote Neil Gaiman **:
Make. Good. Art.
* examples of international, national and local groups:
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Romance Writers of Australia http://www.romanceaustralia.com
Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild http://www.csfg.org.au/
** Watch this video, because Neil will give you far better advice than I possibly could. Really. Watch this video: