Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Ten Stages of Novel Writing.

You’re not a failure.

Just because that white screen is staring back at you, doesn’t mean that the words don’t reside within.

I tell myself this every time I sit down to write my book. The process of bringing a story to life is emotional, courageous and gratifying, all at once. Sometimes I’m so sure that I’m doing everything wrong, I’m forced to upturn numerous articles and interviews, on famous authors, to restore my faith. Hearing that it took ten years, with three kids and a dead end job makes me feel like I’m not alone.

& it feels great to know that you’re not alone...

While writing the most profound text I’ve ever written, in my entire life, I’ve discovered several things about my writing self. You will too. Just as Kubler-Ross’ theory of grief shows us the road to acceptance, there are many stages on the journey to fruition when it comes to novel writing.

Stage One:

Walk briskly from the bus stop to your apartment, with a dead iPhone and nothing but your mind. On the jolting ride from the train to your six-block walk home your story will manifest, sprouting from a reality that ceased to inspire a day ago. Don’t forget that thought. Grasp it harder than you’ve ever clutched anything before. Pray that nothing else comes until you’ve reached someplace you can safely relay your ideas. Get home, do your pee-pee dance. You’ve probably been holding something else in, during that two-hour commute. After you’ve relieved yourself, race to your office, flip open your laptop and dance your fingers onto the keypad slower than your mind will allow.


When you’re complete, sit back and marvel at the copious flood of concepts. Let themes, symbols and motifs dangle in the air. Relish in the fact that you’ve finally got the notion for your book.

Stage Two:

Tell every one and no one. Don’t tell those who won’t care or those who write too. 

Tell the significant other, the best friend and your parents. Listen for hesitation and suggestion. Your mother says it should be a love story, your father would prefer you’d incorporate memoir and the boyfriend wants whatever you want.

You don’t take criticism well, no writer ever really does. Make faces over the phone, where they can’t see you, that seem to say, “You wouldn’t understand, you’re not a scribe.” Take notes of their suggestions, but only use 50% of what they have to input.

Stage Three:

Search for all the how-to guides on novel writing. Buy a ton from the bookstore only to have the idiot at the register ask you, “Oh you’re writing a book huh?”


Create character-types, plot points and protagonist’s names. Put together a sizable board with pictures of whom they might resemble and places in your story. Put your preemptive scheme everywhere around you post-it style. Do everything, but actually get started. It isn’t like you’ve been writing for years. Sarcasm.

Stage Four:

Join a bunch of races to the finish line, just to say you had comrades along the way. NaNoWriMo, the 30/30 or that group you found on Craigslist. Oh they have a different way of plot planning? Perhaps I should redo the schematic of my tale!


Stage Five:

Watch characters manifest before your eyes. Tremble at the pieces of people, you once knew, floating through your antagonists: The whore from high school, the dream guy who couldn’t get a clue and your ex-bestie. Laugh silently as if it’s some huge secret you possess. “They’ll never even know I’m talking about them; I’ll just change names and places.”

(I suggest you rewatch the “The Best Man” after this stage.)

Stage Six:


No, actually write. Let your introduction crash like an avalanche through your fingertips. Load it up with metaphors and similes that will have any human crooning that you’re worth the biosphere.

“Did you read this?” some imaginary fan will spout.

 Think, Damn I’m good. Keep writing. You’ve begun.

Stage Seven:

Criticize and chastise yourself by chapter two. Think that you aren’t good enough. Allow your boyfriend/girlfriend to think you’ve gone bat sh*t crazy when you pick up “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and throw it. Say, “You think I’m ever going to get a damn Pulitzer?! This is crazy.”

It’s at this time your boo-thang will discover that it’s best to leave you alone when you’re in a “writing mood.”

Stage Eight:

Keep writing, but plan to do everything…but write.

Check Facebook.
Update Twitter with a line from your sixth chapter.
That was GOLD.
Delete it.
OMG…OMG, they might figure out what the book is about.

Check Facebook again.

Download a Self-Control application that blocks certain websites and promotes productivity. (Although you could’ve definitely just turned off your Wi-Fi. I guess that’s why they call it self-control. Realize that you have none.)

Block all social media sites and Google for 3 hours. “But I might need Google to define a word, to make sure I’m using it in the right context!” 

Use a freaking dictionary.

Stage Nine:

Settle into your book. Realize that your protagonist is you, after you just wrote in the most traumatic experience of your life and attributed it to her history.

Cry some more.

That’s what writing is for. Healing.

Stage Ten:

Get to the finish line. Well, the almost finish line. You’ve still got a ton of revisions to do.

Reread your intro and tell yourself that it needs to be rewritten.
Rewrite it.
Change words that don’t sound like they boast your “vernacular.”
Read dialogue out loud.
Would he really say that to her?

Have the realization run down from your shoulders to the tips of your toes. It will feel like a sparkling, tingling sensation that will leave your lips curved upwards for some time.

Grasp this notion harder than you clutched the first inkling.

I wrote a book.
I wrote a book.
I wrote a book. 

(artwork by brianna mccarthy.)