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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Any Idiot Can Write a Novel…

“Having a novel published doesn’t mean you can write,” so I’ve been told.  That may or may not be true – in fact, it is probably both true and untrue at the same time.

Anyone with a keyboard, a few days, and a modest amount of literacy can turf out a novel.  It may not be any good, but it will be a novel.  I’ve read plenty of novels that weren’t any good (including one or two of my early efforts), but at least they were novels.  I agree - it doesn’t mean you can write.

But, can anyone write a publishable novel?  By that, I mean one good enough to be accepted by a publisher.

Yes, I think most people who can read and write will be capable of turning out a decent enough manuscript. 

I don’t class myself as a natural, or gifted, but I’ve managed to persuade three Acquisitions Editors to publish my novels (not mentioning the novellas, novelettes, and shorts).  So, what does anyone who wants to write a credible novel need?  Well, three things, in my opinion…

1.  Time.  Yes, it takes time to write a novel.  A lot of time.  I work on a novel most days, and from start to finish takes about eighteen months.  That includes the planning and self-editing as well as the actual writing.

2.  Willingness to learn.  Unless you’re gifted or lucky, there are a lot of things to discover.  Head hopping?  Passive voice?  Telling?  If you don’t know what these mean and why they’re among the writer’s cardinal sins, you will by the time you’ve finished.  Not to mention plotting, characterisation, theme, and of course grammar, etc, etc.  None of these is difficult, but putting them all together well takes a top professional writer.  One day, maybe, that’ll be me.

3.  Thick skin.  I think all writers should belong to a critique group.  I do, and I’m also very lucky with my writing friends who offer invaluable advice and opinions and have the confidence to tell me when I’m going wrong.  But, among critique groups – particularly online where anonymity is possible – I’ve seen some newbie writers given a very rough ride.  Heck, even after three novels I’ve been told I can’t write, and I stand no chance of ever being published.  I can take it, but a newer writer might be put off which is a great pity. 

So, it doesn’t take genius to right a book.  It does take hard work and guts, but is so rewarding I’d encourage anyone who wants to, to try it.

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