Why Write a Novel?

Back in April, when I was thinking about starting this blog, I made a list of about 30 topics I thought might make good posts. (I was on leave at the time; my brain was free and creative.) No. 5 on the list: Why write a novel?

The question now is: What was I thinking? How on earth do I answer that question?

Why write a novel? I used to write poetry. Writing poetry is no piece of cake, but you can write the first draft of a poem in minutes or hours, on a napkin or the back of an envelope. You can see the fruits of your labor. Maybe no one else in the world will ever read that poem, maybe it will take you years to revise it to your liking. But in the meantime, you can move on to the next poem.

A writing teacher of mine in college, a writer of novels for children and young adults, told me, “Poetry is nice, but you’ll never get anywhere doing that.” Or something along those lines. Her words didn’t influence me to want to write novels–I was already writing short fiction and had always loved novels best of all types of literature–but they stuck with me.

Why write a novel? As I have said, writing a novel is hard. It takes stamina. It causes guilt. Right this minute, I should be working on my novel. I should always be working on my novel, if I ever want to finish it.

Why write a novel? It’s all about the story. Which is funny, because I didn’t set out with a complete plot–or any plot, really–in mind. I just saw characters I liked and wondered what made them that way, what motivated them, what stories I could uncover for them. The length of a novel gives so much room to explore. It’s exhilarating, and tiring, like searching for the Northwest Passage.

Wanting to write a novel is also about–surprise!–writing. Good writing days, when things are flowing and moving along, feel really good. Plus, when I finish writing my @#$@#%#@ first novel, I will be a better writer than I was when I started. I know that for a fact. I will have learned to hone, to cut, to plot, to characterize. I can always learn more, of course, but I’ll be further along the way.

There are more reasons to write a novel: To move people, to share a view of the world. But those things seem far away. At the moment, I focus on the reasons connected to the process of writing, because I’m in the thick of it.

Fellow novel writers: What are your reasons?


3 thoughts on “Why Write a Novel?

  1. milkfever

    I suspect every writer has wondered, what was I thinking? at some stage. At some point it dawns on you just how big this thing has become, and you feel like the only way you can see the novel clearly is to hold it all in your hands, but of course, it’s too big to hold, isn’t it?

    So a good question.


  2. Cassandra Jade

    Possibly insanity. I know it isn’t because I have the time. I think what drives my writing is that I get fixated on a character or an idea and I want to see how it plays out. The fun is in developing the story and the characters and seeing where they can take you. Even the less fun parts (editing comes to mind) have a certain appeal. You can see the improvement and the evolution of the ideas until you end up with something that is a complete manuscript.

    Great post and great question. It may not be an answerable one but it gets us all thinking.

  3. Pingback: Why Write a Novel 2 « Firstborn Literary Child

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