Misguided Whimsy: on the complexity of writing a novel

Missed me?

In attempts to distract myself from the harsh social withdrawal born from moving out of London, my love…my life, I went back there for a week in an attempt to once again feel a part of the sweet buzz of functional, productive humanity. Right before returning to a land that, quite frankly, was born from the devil’s bum. I feel no semblance of guilt in saying this. I miss the south, oh how I miss the south! But I must return to my scripturient fantasies now, because I began talking about a thing and didn’t quite finish it, did I? See, in the last instalment, we visited sources of inspiration for when one attempts to enter the creative sphere with a budding passion for the craft of writing and a hopeful skip leading to the production of a novel.

Today we continue.

So you’re inspired. Your muse has shown their numinous face and it is indeed a pretty one. Assuming you have now reached the level of inspiration necessary to keep a steady level of vorfreude going, it’s dream crushing time! For you see, in writing, whimsy is the hook and the jokes about alcoholics are the dry honest truth. Once you write that first piece of genius chapter and your face is flushed with the fresh glow of success, you’ll realise that writing the second or third chapter of that multiple viewpoint, urban, cyberpunk, fantasy novel with middle eastern influences is usually much harder. And maybe it isn’t hard, maybe it just isn’t that good.

Either way you hit the first hump and as the psychological tears begin to drown your squishy, uncomprehending brain, you sluggishly notice a teeny tiny thought stuck in your mind with a fluorescent thumb-tack. The thought will usually read something like, “Holy Shit, I suck at life”. And at that moment nothing short of maybe cocoa and a warm hug from your loved one will convince you otherwise. Because let’s face it, whimsy only takes you so far before the cold, shiny fist of reality punches you in the armpit. You drop your metaphorical pen and assume the foetal position… the carpet absorbing your flowing, inky dreams.

When this happens, I recommend a chill pill. Because all it means is you need to do more research. But this time it’s less inspiration and more preparation. Writing a novel is hard. Maybe you can try something smaller? Get experience in other forms of writing, maybe articles or blog posts. Already done that? Well then you need information. At this point people usually start considering writing classes and the like. What I would suggest is to take to YouTube. More specifically, Brandon Sanderson’s useful lectures on writing that first sci-fi or fantasy novel. Start from Lecture 1 and work your way there. You then have the building blocks and can decide what pieces of advice suit you and what pieces really don’t. But time after time you will hear that writing is hard. Writing a novel is very hard, especially when it’s your first and you have no frame of self-reference. By that I mean you don’t yet know your own voice, the novel’s voice or perhaps the character’s voice. But there is advice and there is guidance. And some of it I didn’t just nick from Cracked.

Once you accept that this is hard, you can then start working on understanding how to approach your own process as a writer. Good luck human!

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