"How to Avoid Writing Your First Novel"--Lynn Rosen's Got it Right
Lynn Rosen wrote a great article today for the Huffington Post online--"How to Avoid Writing Your First Novel." It's a piece about getting published, or rather, about the fears one must overcome in order to get published or even to just write that first draft:
I am sitting in the comfy chair in my home library, a wonderful room with book-lined walls. Next to me on the side table is a cup of tea and before me, on the ottoman, is the book. It arrived in the mail several days ago, and I promptly took it upstairs and hid it in my sock drawer. Once I take it out of the bag, I thought, I must begin. So I stalled, and hid it from my husband, who would have innocently asked "what's in the package?" and "why don't you open it?"
The book I've been avoiding is a new book called Is Life Like This? A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months by John Dufresne. I read a listing for the book recently and was struck by its promise to help me craft a complete first draft of a novel in a mere six months. "Really?" I thought. "In six months? Even me? Can't be possible!" And yet, I was intrigued, for I had to admit, at least to myself (and now to you), that I have always wanted to write a novel.
For more than twenty years, I have worked in the book publishing industry both as an editor and a literary agent. I have helped many authors hone in on their topic and structure and develop their books, and I have held many hands through the stages of publication. As I helped these writers do the creative literary magic trick of making a book out of an idea, often they would ask me: "Why don'tyou write a book?" Over and over, I demurred, saying that I would, someday, when the perfect topic came to me. Perhaps I did harbor a dream of seeing my name in print on a glossy cover in stacks on a bookstore table, and perhaps this is what led me into the book publishing industry in the first place. But for the time being, I was content to edit.
But I am very afraid. I am not sure I am up to the task. No, let me rephrase that -- I am quite sure I am NOT up to the task, that I do not have the requisite talent to compose a work of fiction that deserves to be published and that others will wish to read. I'm totally intimidated by this idea. And that is why I have determined to do it.
As I get older, I'm starting to believe: figure out what frightens you most, and go there. So there I am going. And I am inviting you along on the journey. You, and John Dufresne's book, for somehow this is the writing guide that has captured me with its promise to take me from nothing to a complete first draft in six months.
I think Lynn has it right here. It's a scary thing to put your inner most thoughts and ideas down on paper, especially if someone else is expected to read it. I know many writers who struggle with the same things, myself included, and I think the "figure out what frightens you most, and go there" motto is a fantastic one.