The great New Yorker editor and writer, E.B. White, said when accepting the National Medal for Literature, “A writer’s courage can easily fail him . . . I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
On this your first day of writing your novel, make a promise to yourself that you are going to do it. This is critical. Without that commitment, you may as well save your pencils and paper. It isn’t going to happen. Remember, write as often as you can. That’s what writers do — they write.
Carve out specific time to write. This is important because over the course of writing a novel, you’ll get discouraged, bored, angry, or otherwise fed up, and when you start feeling that way, you’ll need clearly defined patterns to keep yourself working.
On occasion you may have to shift your writing times to deal with other demands in your life, but fight to keep them as regular as you can.
What do I mean by specific times?
Two hours each morning and each evening, and one eight-hour day every weekend, for example. Decide how much time you will spend writing each week, and then do it. Many would-be novelists defeat themselves because they set a schedule but then don’t stick to it. Be realistic in the time you plan, and then live by it.
In the first week, decide upon the story you are going to write. You might not work out every detail, but today you are going to begin the process. You are not going to procrastinate — procrastination is your enemy. Matisse advised his students, “If you want to be a painter, cut out your tongue.” The time has come to stop merely talking about writing your novel. Get started planning it now.
What kind of novel appeals to you? What really gets your juices flowing? Is it a good murder mystery, science fiction, a thriller, romance, general fiction?
Alice Munro is considered by many to be the best short-story writer in the English language. Her books sell about 30,000 copies a year. She is a writer other writers admire for her technical skills and the purity of her style. She is also known for the complex structure of her stories. A typical Alice Munro story might begin at a point that most writers would consider the end, then jump to a time ten years later, then back again. But what is most interesting about Alice Munro — who lives in a small town in southern Canada — is that her stories are about ordinary people: their secrets, their memories of acts of violence, their sexual longings.
Think of what to write from what is around you, from what you know and care about.
It doesn’t matter what kind of book you decide to write. There are no rules other than that the story has to be very, very interesting. It can be exciting, scary, fun, funny or sad — but it must not bore the reader.