Five non-rules for Writing a Novel
These are some tongue-in-cheek non-rules which are even harder to follow than the real ones! Adapted from Elizabeth Percer’s article, Harper, March 25 2016
1. Don’t write a novel
Every time I sit down to write a novel, I get next to nothing done. You may write 79,000 words and realize in the last 1,000 that the novel is not what you want to put out there, but those 80,000 words will inform your next work immeasurably.
2. Keep your publishing dreams in check
Not giving up when the going is ho-hum and uneventful for days or months or years is one of the sweetest joys alive, not because of the tantalizing reward that waits forever in the distance, but because of the complexity and intimacy that develops when kindness, humor, and good intentions are invested in a craft or purpose or person that constantly requires the best of you.
3. Writing doesn’t always look like writing
When I’m trusting myself and not judging a first draft with nasty little tattle-tale voices, I find my patient, daydreaming, curious, wondering selves to be essential and complementary playmates to the one who can sit down at a computer and punch out a couple thousand words.
4. Books do not respond to timelines, spreadsheets, or graphs
Because I am now a writer and not a physicist, I can say that I don’t believe writing always follows the laws of space and time. It’s amazing how much writing can get done in short, optimal windows cushioned by patience, thoughtfulness, self-care, and faith, and it’s equally amazing how little writing gets done during months of “free” writing time hemmed in by expectation, disparagement, self-loathing, and a diet of Snickers and Vitamin Water.
5. Make space for what comes
At least you know how to get comfortable in the field for the next day, and notice as you do that some other, far smaller and stranger creature has come to wait beside you?
Creativity often thrives as a result of the very behaviors that others label as lazy or self-indulgent or some other horrid judgment that might be appropriate were you a cog in a wheel that cannot turn without your constant and unimaginative presence. Creative work demands that you stop hovering, allow your fields to go fallow occasionally. It demands that you procrastinate…..