LIVING LIFE AUTHORLY
Hello Readers! Here is the second edition of my Living Life Authorly reflection. In this piece, I talk a little bit about being a fledgling author and my own process when it comes to writing my books and novels. I hope you can find something encouraging (and useful) from my words below, whether you are new to this whole writing thing or just looking for a fresh take on something familiar. As always, happy reading and writing!
- J.E. Johnson
The First Novel is the Hardest . . .
In late summer, early fall of 2005 I officially embarked upon my writing career. I was eager, passionate and determined to get my story out and to make it the best I could. I also had no idea what I was getting into. For four years, I worked diligently on The Legend of Oescienne. I made revisions, I changed out words, I built up the world and I sent out query letters. At some point in time someone informed me the book was too long, so I cut off a large chunk at the end (that would later become the first chapters of The Beginning - Book Two), and kept on revising and revising and revising . . .
What is the point of telling you all of this? Am I trying to discourage you (Honestly, who am I to discourage anyone from following their dreams)? Boast about my unfaltering dedication (Ha! If only you knew how many times I just wanted to throw it all aside and save myself the heartache)? Inform you that writing a book takes a massive amount of time and effort (Which would be silly because you all know that already anyway ;))?
No. The point of this edition of Living Life Authorly is to encourage you and let those of you who are beginning authors know that there is no perfect formula to writing your novel. Sure, there are formulaic ways to pen a novel that will be absorbed by your audience, but that's not what I'm trying to do here, either. I simply want to point out that if you are working on your first novel, and you find yourself struggling or taking FOREVER to finish it, do not despair - we all go through that first novel workout.
So, here is some advice to help you wake up the next morning, or week, or year after beginning your new writing regiment without a sore brain . . .
1.) There are no rules to writing a book. No, seriously, there aren't. There are rules of grammar and the English language you learn in school (and that knowledge base is really important and comes in handy), but the beauty of novel writing is that it is CREATIVE writing. You don't have to pen a perfect sentence and you can even bend those grammar rules I mentioned above. Write what feels right to you and take the criticism with a grain of salt.
2.) There is no hurry. Yes, we all want to get that book done and into the hands of our readers and oftentimes by the time we are close to the end, we are sick of it and just want to be done. That's normal for many writers, but don't let it loose into the world before it's ready. Set it aside and work on something else. Take a break and go on a reading binge. I can usually tell when a story is ready. I can't really describe it, but it is just my author's intuition letting me know that yes, this book is ready for the world. Sometimes, when I think a book is ready, that same sixth sense digs at me like a splinter, refusing to leave me alone. Then the next day, or the next week, a plot twist or some missing information I didn't realize was missing will work its way into the story and make it better than it was. Listen to your intuition and trust your gut.
3.) You don't have to write your story in chronological order. I don't, and that is not how the story comes to me. My Muse often sends me scenes of a story that are out of order. What I do and what I have done from the beginning is write down each scene or plot twist or setting description as it comes to me, then I fill in the gaps later on. Think of it like putting together a jigsaw puzzle - piece by piece, sometimes filling out the edges and then finishing up the middle - a sporadic process but effective nonetheless. If I try to write a book in chronological order, I get stuck trying to get past a plot gap and waste time doing so. I find it more time efficient if I write the parts of my story as they come to me. However, if you work better writing your story from beginning to end, then go for it. My point is, everyone has their own style and method. Don't be overwhelmed or feel like a fraud if you find other well-established authors swearing by a method that doesn't match your own.
And here we are, at the end of this edition of Living Life Authorly. I have tried to give you sound and helpful advice this time around, but I want you all to remember it is just that - advice. Perhaps you find what I have shared helpful, perhaps you don't. My purpose in writing about the first novel being the most difficult to finish is to remind you that learning the art of writing through the process of writing is both challenging and important. It would be far easier to sit down with a pro and have them walk you through the entire writing process, but if you relied 100% on a mentor, what will happen when you are ready to write your next novel? I spent a great deal of time checking out forums and asking questions of those who were far more experienced than me, and I wouldn't discourage any of you from doing so. What I do want to encourage you to do, however, is to embrace this first struggle and to learn from it. When you take the time to hone your craft, it becomes something special and it will help you find your own unique voice as a writer. Never give up on that end goal: a complete novel, and don't rely too much on the experts. Follow your instincts, take advice with a grain of salt, and most importantly, sit down and get that story out!