Why Write a Novel 2

In this season of summer movie sequels, it seems like a good time to follow up on the post I wrote last year in which I mused about my reasons for writing a novel.

Although I’m still some months away from querying agents, I’m starting to think about that phase of novel birthing. I’ve been doing research on what makes a good query, reading agents’ blogs, trying to become more knowledgeable about the book industry. No one’s ever hid from me the fact that selling a novel and making a living (or even a fraction of a living) as an author are both really tough to do. I’ve known that from the beginning. It just seemed best not to worry about that fact incessantly while I was working on my book.

But the more I learn now, the more the reality hits home. Here’s the common wisdom: Publishing is a rough road. So write because you love it.

The thing is, I don’t think loving writing is enough to sustain me on this journey. If I were writing just for the love of writing, I’d put my pages in a box or on a thumb drive and be perfectly content. I think the point I’m trying to make in a circuitous way is that for many of us “aspiring,” “emerging,” or what-have-you writers, love of writing is fundamental. (That’s not true for everyone, but probably for a good chunk of writers.) The fantasies that we could make a living doing what we love every day and that we could have an audience for our work are secondary.

But sometimes, it’s true, those secondary things trump the fundamental in our minds. If only someone would notice me and give me a nice chunk of money, I could quit my day job and write.

In order to banish that fantasy and get down to the brass tacks of writing, actually doing what we love, I think we need something more. A sense that we want to be challenged. A sense that we want to set a goal and accomplish it. A driving passion for a particular story. A need to be heard. A little bit of craziness.

In that way, committing to write a novel is sort of like getting married. Love sets the foundation, but it takes a lot more — including the crazy conviction that you can beat the odds — to make a strong marriage.

What do y’all think?


3 thoughts on “Why Write a Novel 2

  1. Rashid Darden

    First of all, yayyy I’m commenting on your blog.

    As you know intimately, my first novel was written because there was a story to tell–that I felt I *needed* to tell. Now, six years later, I can literally see that my novel changed my little corner of the world. Yes it was fictitious, but it spoke to people in ways that caused them to think differently about that topic. (In this case, LGBT issues in African American fraternities.)

    So yay for me, I guess.

    But then I wanted to do more than just change the world. I wanted to tell good stories for *these* particular characters. But I wanted to be the best at it. People said “Oh, you’re going to be the next E. Lynn Harris.” And I always responded with a nose wrinkle and an eye roll, saying “I’m the FIRST Rashid Darden.”

    Then E. Lynn Harris died and I felt bad. 😦

    Anyway, you compared writing a novel to a marriage. I’ve never been married. I’ve also never been a parent, but I feel that writing a novel is more like having a kid. My first one will always be special because it is the oldest and showed the world that YES, I can bring a “child” into the world and do a decent job at it. My second one was proof that YES, the first wasn’t a fluke. And now with the third finished for nearly a year and being published this fall, I feel like wooooooooow I sorta REALLY am a novelist.

    Do I still want to change the world? YES. Do I still want to tell good stories? YES.

    I know I am not the perfect novelist, and maybe I will never be. I like connecting directly with the readers rather than peers. I don’t even share my writing with my college mentor anymore. But perhaps like people who want and need big families, I just now have the desire to keep doing it and keep doing it. I have to. I don’t know why. Being a parent to these novels is just who I am.

    1. equotah Post author

      Yayyy! You commented on my blog. I’m proud to have been a nurse wife to your first child. And just as there’s no perfect parent, I think there’s no perfect novelist. If you’re reaching readers and connecting with them, you’re doing a great job.

  2. Sarah

    I think the love of writing is a given, but I would just like to stick up for the fantasy of having an audience for a moment. Even for people who love it, writing is a really demanding vocation. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t have something to say. And if you have something to say, why wouldn’t you want people to hear it?

    I suppose you could apply the marriage analogy to that idea as well: you make yourself vulnerable because you desire to be heard in some deep and fundamental way.


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