What you need to write a novel

What you need to write a novel

I am not sure if I’ve mentioned it on this blog, but if you know me IRL, or follow me on social media, you may know I am writing a novel.

Actually, I’m near the end of a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, where the Thesis is a publishable novel, so I really am writing a novel. Some people talk about ‘writing a novel’, but they’re – like me in the past – adding a thousand words every so often, with no real expectation of ever getting to the end of it.

But I have a deadline.

In the next ten weeks I need to have written and revised around 35,000 words. That’s a lot of words. In fact it’s a flood of words. I have written about 35,000 words in total so far, so it’s a big hurdle.

And how is that going? Well, instead of writing my novel, I am here on my blog writing something else…

Tools I’m using

I think the tools one uses are important. A blunt axe will not chop wood, and an ineffective software environment will not allow good writing. I honestly have no idea how Dickens managed without a word processor. Genius, I guess.

I am utilizing Scrivener 3 on my MacBook Pro. It’s an amazing piece of software, allowing me to organize my text, annotate each section, easily reorder pieces, and add short bios for my characters so that, after 30,000 words, I don’t forget where character A went to university, or whether they are supposed to be tall or short.

One of the things that really helps is that it keeps a subtle graph near the top that shows how far you are from completing your entire novel’s word count – mine’s obviously around 50%. But it has a second graph that shows how many words you have managed in your current session. I need to have 1,000 words five days per week, so I have it set to 1,000 and it’s a great way of ensuring I don’t stopping early. In fact, I came here to write this because I had achieved that goal. I’m still in the right mood, so I will return to it once this blog post is published, but now the pressure’s off – I don’t need to do any more today.

MFA in Creative Writing

I would strongly recommend getting an MFA if you’re serious about getting a novel out into the world. The best motivated of us have plenty of distractions, but the need to meet word counts, combined with the opportunity to workshop your creative outputs with people who are on a similar journey, as well as with published tutors, is an opportunity not to be overlooked.

Some people scoff at the MFA, and especially at the supposed stereotype novel that emerges from it, but I think it’s fair to say that the MFA does not create a paint-by-the-numbers novel, so much as a lot of people have similar ideas that they want to tell in their unique way. It might be true that there’s nothing new under the sun, but every song is composed of the same few notes, and so is every novel written in just a few words all of which can be found in dictionaries. That doesn’t diminish them. In fact I think it’s magical that reordering words can cause people to cry about something that’s not real. It’s as amazing as that the screen you’re reading this on is emerging out of ones and zeroes.

Finding readers

My main motivation in writing this post was to share what is working for me, but I also want to make sure the world knows I am an author, and try to make sure you stay in touch with me and read what I produce! I have free short stories on my sister site, but I will also write more about writing here as I get closer to publishing.

Let me know if you’re writing, and if you have any questions, in the comments below.

Like many creative people on þe internet, I have a Patreon account. If you would like to support my creative writing (on https://shortbooks.online) or my blogging efforts, please take a look at my Patreon page.

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