Writing A Novel

Thoughts about writing a novel from someone who's written three, had one published by a traditional publisher. Tips, techniques & theories. Not a publishing industry watchdog blog, but an introspective look at what it takes to create a manuscript a publisher might actually want to publish. No hard and fast rules, no "definitive" right ways and wrong ways, just a collection of loosely connected entries about what worked for me- and what failed miserably. Join the fun.

Location: Illinois, United States

First novel published by Mundania Press: http://www.mundania.com

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Who is this guy?

My award-winning published novel:


On Amazon.com:


Hi. I'm Mark Wakely. My first novel, An Audience for Einstein, was just published by Mundania Press, here: http://www.mundania.com It took over two years to write- part time, of course. Before that, I wrote two others novels that went nowhere, and want to start these entries by discussing those early efforts since more than anything, they make this blog possible.

My first novel- a bloated beast I undertook with great trepidation- still has a heartbeat; I'm in the process of rewriting it to restore it to health. (The reconstructive surgery is going well.) It became bloated because- like many new authors who have never attempted a novel- I wasn't sure I could go the distance. Novels are really, really long, I knew; novels are complex and convoluted; novels quite often defy completion, particularly when written by nervous neophytes like me who wonder if they can even imagine the finish line, much less cross it.

To say I underestimated myself would be an understatement.

What I discovered instead is that- given half a chance, and a writer's over-eagerness- just about any novel can mushroom to unhealthy proportions with too many spontaneous sub-plots, tempting tangents, and minor characters who refuse to relinquish the stage. There were times when I felt like a helpless observer as I wrote, the word count racing upward to nose-bleed heights, the final chapter I had in mind growing more and more dim and distant instead of brighter at the end of the proverbial tunnel. When it finally (mercifully) did come to an end, I felt wrung out, depleted and depressed. Fortunately, because I write with care (even my first drafts,) the rewrites went much faster, although the patient hardly lost any weight since I was still overwhelmed by my towering creation and wasn't sure what to cut exactly, or even where to begin. So, all I could do is stoically bundled it up, and send that not-so-little piggy out to market to see what "they" had to say about it.

To my great surprise, I received some very kind words, if no publication offers.

Honestly, those kind words floored me. I had always assumed I would bravely paper my walls with cold, impersonal rejection slips so I could gaze at them smugly years later when I was an enormous success. What I got instead were mainly typed or handwritten notes telling me no thanks in either the most apologetic way, or the most encouraging, as in the totally unexpected "please send us your next book."

Up to that point, I wasn't sure there would ever be a "next book."

So, I came closer than I thought I would with that one. Why? Because the two main characters I had created were alive. It was their heartbeats I heard then, and still hear, and which makes wading back into that quagmire to rescue them worthwhile.

And then there was a second book.

This time, I thought, I'll be smart. I'll be prepared. I'll have this book in such a tight strangle hold it won't dare expand without my explicit, written permission. I read all kinds of "How To Write" books- good and (mostly) bad- (more about them in future entries) and wrote a detailed plot. (Hell, it was a manifesto, that's what it was.) I even workshopped it- an experience in itself- as I methodically stamped out each measured chapter. After all that planning and preparation, the final manuscript that emerged was almost an afterthought, but I hit my goal almost precisely: 60,000 words. Never mind that the characters were D.O.A., or that the plot skeleton was not only showing, it was all bleached bones; I had set a goal and reached it. I was finally a disciplined writer who would never, ever again be dictated to by his material.

I sent the book out twice, got two printed rejection slips without any kind words (and which I did not put on my wall,) and then filed the manuscript into the deepest, darkest desk corner I could, never to see the light of day again.

But wow, was I disciplined. Or so I thought.

More next time about my first try at being a novelist.


Blogger Anastasia said...

There are days I experience, when a rejection slip comes through, that I think I won't be able to think of any more words to type or any story. I go through moments like this here and there, but my first submission was the one that nearly knocked me out.
I banged my head against a wall, 2 rejections, and put it aside. Nearly drove myself insane with thinking about rewriting the damned thing and I still 'go there'. But in the middle of a shower one afternoon something else came to mind, it was on the subconscious backburner for that week, and I started on that and it did total 65 000 words when I finished. I stared at it thinking 'gee whiz'. I didn't mean for it to be that length, I asked myself whether it was too short. Then I thought, bugger it and it's been a few weeks since I've sent it away and I'm still 'waiting' and I hate the wait.

I feel depressed for the same reasons you mention, but it's not a constant state. I don't think that a person realises how much energy they use when they sit there putting something together, typing and longhand notes or whatever, and it hits them later - after submitting it.

It reminds me of the times I'd finish exams. Prior to the exam period, I'd dread the exams and say 'Can't wait until they're over, go out, party etc' and after I'd finish the last examination at uni, I'd be totalled in the same way:
"Where is this leading me?"
"Why do I subject myself to this? (in the case of study and examinations lol)"
"Will I make a living out of it?"

I have to say I found your entries refreshing to read tonight, and that's due to me deciding to pull the plug on being a member of an 'online' writing workshop (but I did learn from the experience) that left a really depressing taste in my 'mind'.

All the best with your novel and all forthcoming novels.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Mark Wakely said...

Sorry it took so long to get back to you about your post.

Thanks for the kind words. I know exactly what you mean about expending energy on a writing project, then suddenly it's finished and it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you. There's a sense of "now what?" once the act of creating is over, almost as if you've "lost" something.

It's a kind of "grieving" process, isn't it? Fortunately, it's temporary, usually alleviated by starting a new writing project. And so it goes.

I'll be updating my blog soon. Thanks for reading.

I liked your blogs too, by the way.


7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is very informative and entertaining. I have many ideas for many novels, and you have really been a great assistance with your words. I am definately awating your updates.
Thanks a lot. You have done more than you know. Only questions I really have is about the publishing part, but gotta get the stories written first!


1:54 AM  
Blogger Zdove said...

I just ran upon your blog, in a web search for writing muse, etc... Your blog touched my muse and made me laugh and say, yes I know that feeling. lol. It describes what I feel when I write: What to chop, what to keep? And to my characters, What do you mean you want to run amuck?
I had fun reading your blog. Looks like you found your niche. I wish you all future successes!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

8:23 PM  
Blogger janel06 said...

I also enjoyed your blogs. I recently was offered a job writing articles for clients' websites, and haven't been able to separate myself from my notebook. I am an aspiring authoress, and am like a sponge when it comes to information on writing novels. I thoroughly enoyed your posts. :) Good luck with the other novels!

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Blogger Gary White said...

Writing My First Novel. Advice?

6:01 AM  

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