So, you want to be a writer? Part One - Do you really?
It’s been brought to my attention that I can perhaps offer some insights into the process of being able to take that novel that is merely an idea hogging space in your thoughts and hopefully assist anyone interested in how best to bring those promising ideas from your mind all the way to a living, breathing novel that is captured for eternity on the page…for better or for worse. Firstly, it’s critical to answer two questions:
1/ Are you prepared to write a novel that is straight from the blemished, fragile, perfectly ugly inner core of your soul?
This is not the place where we all join hands, sing Cumbaya and insincerely praise each other for how wonderful we all are. No, you’ll need to go well beyond that superficial zone of airy, fairy-ness and be content to let yourself and the reader down deeper, all the way to that sanctum where you’re free to call a spade a spade, a failure a heartbreak, a win a fluke, a religion a hoax, a song a revelation, a smile a refuge, an insult a harpoon.
Sure, you can sincerely love, you can sing Cumbaya and praise the people in your life and further afar, but I’m certain you understand that you owe it to the intelligence of your reader, that deep feelings demand outstanding merit, that if you actually love someone to the moon and back that it’s hopefully for grander reasoning than because Mark Zuckerberg has informed you it’s their birthday today.
If you want someone to turn your pages, you better leave your whole heart, soul and jugular right there on the page for ‘em too. Any less, and you should probably go and blog about Acai bowls, Milan Farshion Week or Footy, faaarrrkn foooooty! Sure, you’re writing, but you’re not a writer, you’re too safe for that.
2/ Are you so committed to writing from this place, which makes most too queasy, that you are ultimately prepared to lose friends, family and others because they may, perhaps rightfully so, end up too offended, ashamed or infuriated by the unique workings of your deepest and truest thoughts you’ve laid bare on the page?
It’s fine to say no to this, but in that case, I do hope you keep a journal, work your thoughts, emotions and feelings out on a page (it’s therapeutic, trust me) and once it’s written, quickly lock those words away, hide the journal where no one will possibly find it until the day you die and your nearest and dearest discover your world behind the mask that living prevented you from revealing.
It doesn’t bother me what you do, but my feeling is, if it’s in you, let it free. The people who would cut you off for being truly yourself are precisely the people you should never have in your life at any rate.
Ok, you’ve answered yes to both, you’re off to the races…
A novel has to be between 80-120 thousand words. What’s your schedule? When are you going to sit down to complete the words? There are no secrets, it’s hard work and only you can do it. As I wrote Slippery I would occasionally require 8 hours to complete one paragraph and even then, I would re-edit that over and over anyway.
But, as a general rule of thumb, over the course of the 96,790 words, I would guess it to be 100 hours per 10,000 words – so you’re looking at 800-1,200 hours to write your novel. Then double that for all the re-editing, actually, you should triple it for all the hours spent re-reading back through it again and again to check for all the rudimentary grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes, but also to make sure you haven’t used the same absolute zinger of a phrase or anecdote or whatever more than once. Nothing pisses a reader off more than when you repeat a zinger or turn of phrase.
And you should never, ever risk pissing off the reader! They're giving you their time and devoted attention...that is the most precious gift you can ask for from anyone. Treat it with respect.
Ok, after reaching for the calculator, you’re looking at 3,000 hours – if you work 24 hours a day then you’ll have the manuscript ready in 125 days. Get it to me in 100 or you’re fired! No, you go ahead and make whatever calculations with this information that are amenable to your lifestyle and plan accordingly and realistically.
Rightoh, If you’re still adamant that you want to be a writer and you’re dead certain you’re going to bring your words to life (and I truly hope you are feeling that way) Part 2 will cover creating content – just how the hell do you fill an empty page and why would anyone want to read it - and how to self-publish by using the best aspects of Amazon (and circumvent their worst and most demonic attributes) and bring your book to the world.
Thank you for reading, hope to see you for Part 2.
Liam Carroll is the author of Slippery, a story set in Southeast Asia about capitalism on steroids, it makes the world of Gordon Gecko look positively gentlemanly, and Sweet Dreams of Fanta, a nostalgic romp in time back to the Sydney of 1988, seen through the eyes of a freckly, moon-faced, seven year old Fanta addict and devoted Balmain Tigers lover.