- Books, Literature, and Writing
How to find out if writing a novel is really what you want to do.
Why do you want to write anyway?
You will have heard people say (as I have) that “I want to be a writer when I grow up” or they say, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer.” You may want to write; but that doesn’t mean you should write. I might want to be a pilot or a brain surgeon but that doesn’t mean I have what it takes. Just because you want something doesn’t mean you should have it. You want to be a writer but if you have no talent then you can “want” as much as you like but it will never happen. Is writing something you want to do or have to do? Is writing a “glamorous” career or a need that you must satisfy whether or not you make any money or get any recognition? Because the fact of the matter is, writing chooses you; you don’t choose to become a writer.
Books that you shouldn't bother reading
Interviewers and commentators on The Arts are always hugely impressed by the prolific writer who is introduced in breathless awe as; “the author of thirty novels, two volumes of short stories, a dozen plays etcetera!” So what. How good are those novels? Tell me which is the best one and I might read it. But why should I read the others if they aren’t as good? What’s the point of reading any book by any author if it’s not their best? There are so many authors so many good books I haven’t got the time to waste on books that aren’t the best. Remember that when you start writing.
Never read a book by any author who has a new book out every two years. To them it’s a job. They are writing simply because they know they will be published. And just because you know your book will be published is not a good enough reason to write it.
Don’t read a book about a middle aged author living in Los Angeles who is struggling to finish a novel which is written by a middle aged author who is living in Los Angeles who is struggling to finish a novel. That man has hit rock bottom. They have nothing left to say or write about but keep going because they don’t know what else to do and are desperately trying to recapture lost glories. Twenty years ago they wrote a novel that made them rich and famous. But the second book failed and so did the third and fourth because they were all weak copies of the first but each copy became a more diluted version of that debut novel until there was no content left at all. In the end they can think of nothing except to write a book about a novelist who can’t write anymore.
Many novelists have only one thing to say and spend their whole lives saying it. Once you’re squeezed all the juice out of the orange there is no point in squeezing it anymore. When it’s gone; it’s gone.
Instead write the kind of book you want to read.
But anyway you’ve decided that writing a novel is something you must do. What will you write about? More often than not this is the hurdle that an aspiring novelist will fall at because it suddenly occurs to them they have nothing to write about. They have had a very ordinary life. A dull job. Nothing has ever happened in their life that would be of any interest to anyone so what do you write about if you know nothing? But writing “about what you know” means; write about what other people will know too. A good writer writes about things that his audience will know about too. He will think what they think and feel what they feel and put this into words; their words. You might think your life is boring but if you write about it well enough your readers wont find it boring they will love it because you are writing about them and their lives. A good writer writes the autobiography of his audience. Your readers will recognize that your book is about them; about people like them. People who have suffered some terrible personal tragedy always say they take comfort from discovering that they are not alone and that meeting people who have suffered a similar tragedy and talking to them about it makes all their suffering at least bearable. Your readers who read your book will also realize that they are part of a community. They might never meet but they are tied together as a fraternity by your book. Suddenly each person reading your book will come to see that what they think and feel and believe is shared by thousands of other people too and to their relief and joy they realize that they are not alone in the world and they are not weird or crazy or stupid or boring after all.