Writing My First Novel

Writing a Novel

I’ve written countless pages of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and blog posts since I began my endeavors as a writer.  Most of which have been what I consider paying my dues.  I have only a few legitimate publication credentials (with several hopefuls in the pipeline), quite a few essays and stories ready for revision, and a marginally successful blog to show for all of the hours I’ve spent staring at a computer screen.  But for the first time in my life, I feel like a writer.

It wasn’t my degree that caused this feeling.  It wasn’t returning to blogging.  And although I enjoyed quite a bit of praise during my education, my professors’ or peers’ approval didn’t cause me to feel like a writer.  I feel like a writer because I write.

For years I have tinkered with a few stories here or there, planned several larger projects that never seemed to happen, and have tried to ease my way into the writing lifestyle.  I’ve enjoyed the tinkering and planning, but in reality, this type of effort does not make one a writer.  Claiming to be a writer and actually being a writer are two very different things.  The only way to be a writer, regardless of money, fame, or even publications, is to write…. and write a lot.

During my courses at Southern New Hampshire University, most weeks I had to submit at least 2,500 words for professor or peer review.  Some of these essays or stories turned out relatively well, but they all seemed a bit more like a chore than a joy in my life.  They were due at midnight on Sunday nights, and I’d often find myself still typing away on my Mac at 11:30, trying to reach my required word count.  Even so, I was developing the habits of writing frequently.

Since I graduated, I have increased my writing exponentially.  I journal nearly every day.  In fact, I may write a post about journaling at some point in the future.  I have written a 20,000 word memoir about my experience serving on an anti–terrorism weapons of mass destruction response team and have even written several smaller essays and memoirs which I have no intention of ever submitting for publication.  I simply wrote them because I found them interesting and wanted to write.

Mac Keyboard

Working towards my 2,500 word–per–day goal.

I have now developed a routine of writing which allows me time to write between 2,500 and 3,000 words nearly every day.  The first several days – even the first few weeks – were often difficult.  Trying to decide what to write and then actually putting my thoughts into written form was a bit of a chore, but now, I find my sense of serenity sitting in my leather chair, listening to Beethoven or Pink Floyd, drinking coffee, and thinking through each individual word, sentence, paragraph, and story.

Several weeks ago, I decided on the central story of my first full–length novel.  I had debated different aspects of this story for years.  In fact, one of my first fiction short stories had a similar theme (this story has never been submitted – other than for entrance into the SNHU writing program).  As I developed the story more and more, I couldn’t wait to discuss some of my ideas with my wife, Misti, and ask for her input on a few questions that I kept encountering.

On a long and lonely drive back to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, from the middle of nowhere in Ohio, I explained to Misti that after she put the kids the bed, I would like for her to call me to discuss my upcoming novel.  Over the course of the last hour of my drive, between dodging tractor–trailers, we explored some of my ideas.  Having her as a sounding board, advisor, and inspiration helped dramatically.  By the end of my drive, I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted the story to begin and where I wanted it to go from there.

This morning, after allowing my mind time to adjust to being awake (I’m a heavy, heavy sleeper), I took my Mac and my coffee to my leather chair, closed the door behind me, pressed play on Pandora’s Beethoven Channel, and began to write my first full–length novel, a tale of outdoor adventure which is partially influenced by Jack London, Henry David Thoreau, and George Washington Sears.

I am now 2,600 words into my novel.  I completed the first chapter and started on the second.  The only problem that I am facing now is that I want to ignore the rest of the world and keep writing.  I can’t wait to see where my protagonist will go and how he responds to the troubles he’s going to face in the next chapter!

Now that I’m writing in my journal regularly, blogging frequently, continuing my habit of 2,500 words per day, and starting my first novel, I feel like a writer.  Hell.  I am a writer.

What about you?  Have you ever dreamed of writing a novel?  Or better yet, are you writing one now?  Have you developed any good habits that are helping you achieve your writing goals?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!

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8 thoughts on “Writing My First Novel

  1. A thoughtful post! Good to see you’ve found a way to maintain the writing habit – I’m too easily distracted, or lack the discipline to really apply myself, so I admire those that stick with it. Looking forward to reading more about your writing adventure – your influences for the novel are solid!

    • Thanks so much, oh plaid sage. I appreciate the comment.

      The biggest problem is dealing with days off. Obviously there are days when you are committed to other activities. It’s hard to come back after a weekend of camping or a long weekend of chores. I’ve found that my best option for this is to just dive back in the following day. Even if the first few paragraphs are slow–going, you just keep typing until you find the groove again.

      Thanks again!

  2. I’m writing one right now 🙂 It’s hard to maintain a steady blog and keep up my writing but at the same time, like you pointed out, just getting in the habit of writing a lot (and regularly) is also helpful.
    I’m still trying to find a balance though.
    How do you decide how long you’re going to spend on writing your novel versus your blog?

    • Awesome! Developing the habit is the key to getting anywhere with writing.

      I have a fairly strict 2,500 word–per–day policy. During my “real” writing time, I don’t look at anything on the internet. I don’t have my phone. And I don’t think about anything else but writing. After I finish my writing, the rest of the day is open to whatever else is going on in life – like blogging. That being said, I usually work on blog posts in the evening during family TV time. I usually write the post the first day, revise it once the next and then publish. This keeps blogging fun and keeps it from interfering with my writing goals.

      Thanks again for the comments! I hope I answered your question.

      • That’s a great idea! Especially the no phone/internet during real writing! I’ve noticed how much quicker I am if I just asterisk/highlight what I need to look up and keep on writing.

  3. I’ve always liked writing, but it is odd because I don’t read books at all and never really have been a big reader.
    Like with everything else, it’s all about finding balance. I’m sure you will figure out how to “live” and find time to write. Your figuring it out now… Best of luck to you!

    • Thanks for the comment, Debbie.

      I agree that balance is super important, but I’m trying to shift my balance a bit towards writing. I will never reach my goals if I allow myself to slack off too much (and I’m quite prone to do so.) I keep reminding myself – If you’ve got time to watch TV, you’ve got time to read. If you’ve got time to surf the net, you’ve got time to write.

      Thanks again!

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