What the world needs now, is another blog about writing like I need a hole in the head

In April 2006, I started writing a novel. I’m still writing it. Clearly, I need to start a blog like I need a hole in the head.

But blog posts on the topic of working on a first novel have been writing themselves in my head for several weeks now, and I NEED TO GET THEM OUT.

My idea is to write about what it’s like to write a first novel, not as an expert — someone who’s completed the task — but as someone in the trenches. Someone who’s learning as she goes along. I’m writing for other first-time novelists, and for people who’ve always wanted to start writing a novel but haven’t gotten around to it yet, and for people who’re writing they’re second or third novels but still feel like novices, and for anyone who loves the craft of writing.

One of my writing teachers likes to quote someone-or-other who said that when you’re writing a first novel, you’re learning to write _a_ novel at the same time that you’re learning to write _this_ novel.

I’m going to say that it’s like parenting: You’re one person, with one parenting philosophy (or maybe several vying for supremacy in your mind), but depending on the kid, you might deal with a situation differently. And maybe the first novel is kind of like the first kid. You’re less confident, more nervous about your choices. You do everything too carefully or not carefully enough.

Here’s another analogy that is less elegant but better describes my experience: Writing a first novel is like deciding to bike across the United States, but all you have is a trike. You start at the Atlantic and reach the Pacific, but then you realize that you really need to make the journey on a bike. But you don’t know how to ride a bike. So you get a bike with training wheels, and you do it all over again. And then you think, I really ought to take the training wheels off. ¬†You make the journey one more time, and this time, maybe you go through the Plains States instead of the Rockies. Or maybe you decide you really want to go south instead of west.

As I write my novel, I keep feeling like I’m going over the same ground over and over, or that I’m cycling in place. There’s progress, but it’s often much slower than I would like. I keep thinking the end has to be in sight sometime soon. And I know it will be one day. But it’s a long haul.

What’s does novel writing feel like to you?


2 thoughts on “What the world needs now, is another blog about writing like I need a hole in the head

  1. Sarah

    I think it’s fascinating that you say “blog posts on the topic of working on a first novel have been writing themselves in my head”–the way it suggests that blogs have matured as a literary form to the point where you recognize that’s the form certain thoughts should take. It also makes me think about all those letters that the Romantics wrote to each other–were those essentially their version of blog posts?

    1. equotah Post author

      Yeah, you’re right. They aren’t essays or poems writing themselves in my head. They are definitely blog posts, and maybe blogs (and Facebook and IM and e-mail) are our versions of the letters of the Romantics. But they’re more than that, b/c blogs can be newsy or advertisey or instructional or other -als and -ys.

      Even though there’s long been discussion about how the Internet might transform fiction in terms of form (bringing back serialization, for example, or making novels interactive or nonlinear), I think any movement on that front has been in niches, whereas blogging as a literary form is a widespread cultural phenomenon.


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