Only Mad People Start To Write A Novel? Discuss….

Whenever I tell people in the ‘real world’ *dabs fingers patronisingly* that I am writing a novel they invariably look vaguely uncomfortable before changing the subject at the first available opportunity. Some of them stare at me as if I have finally taken leave of my senses while others nod in bemused sympathy, say ‘that’s nice’ or ‘good for you’ as if I am a five year old child tugging at their trousers having told them I have just seen The Gruffalo arm wrestling The BFG at the bottom of the garden.

The few that do clamber over this initial hurdle of disbelief normally come to a jarring halt when the inevitable next question is asked – ‘What’s it about Stephen?’ Their faces drop as I begin to wax lyrical about the world of Kirkwood Scott. Supernatural beings amongst the homeless community in Belfast? Forces of good and evil battling for control of the known universe in that pub we always go to on pay day because it sells cheap beer? He’s finally lost it.

It is disheartening but thankfully there are those that keep me going. A friend visited us last night who I haven’t spoken to in forever. When Fionnuala brought up the fact that her deranged husband was writing a book she was genuinely interested and said she would like to read it. And you know what, I believed her. These are the tiny crumbs of support and encouragement that I cling on to as I plough through the third draft.

Because these tiny crumbs are the oxygen that the fledgling author so desperately needs in order to force him or her to flip open their laptop, stare at the blank screen and then start to hesitantly tap those first few words out on the keyboard. It’s all about belief. And it’s so much easier to believe in yourself when others believe in you first. Especially in the final stages when your literary lungs are bursting and the finish line seems farther away than ever.

I run marathons. Have I mentioned that before? They are 26.2 miles long. People always tend to forget the .2 but let me tell you that is the part of the race when the crowd are at their most inspiring and you need them more than ever before. It is their cheers and hollering that drag your aching, exhausted body over the line. They make the previous 26 miles worthwhile, they are the reason you run at all. They are the fuel that powers you through those lonely training runs in the pouring rain.

I feel like I am nearing the 26 mile stage of the book. Fionnuala has…. er ‘focused my thinking’ by informing me if I haven’t finished it by the end of September then she is initiating divorce proceedings against me. I think she’s joking. I think. But it’s certainly a kick up the creative backside when I need it the most. I need her support at a time like this. I need to finish this project even if it never sells a copy and wins literary equivalents of those awards they hand out at Oscar time for the worst movie of the year.

This book will prove a lot of people wrong. But more importantly it will prove a few people right. Those who cared. Those who believed rather than looked at me as if I had two heads. Those who encouraged me rather than those who offered smirks, sighs or, worst of all, silence. I’m excited about the end of September. Incredibly nervous but excited nonetheless. To be able to let the trusted few see what I have been hammering away at with furrowed brow for the last nine months.

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m about to clamber out of bed and haul myself into the rat race for another day. I will sit on the train and fret over still gaping holes in the plot. I will daydream through meetings about the colour of Meredith’s hair, still undecided, and whether or not Harley’s character should be introduced at an earlier stage of the story. I will spend my lunchtime run plodding around the city as my frazzled brain works overtime on such thoughts.

But I’m getting there. Only .2 miles to go.

How do you deal with the doubters and doomsayers when it comes to your dream?

What advice would you offer to me with .2 miles to go?

87 thoughts on “Only Mad People Start To Write A Novel? Discuss….

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  1. Hmmm there is that stereotypical image of a writer isn’t there ? A recluse sat in an old cottage in the middle of no where tapping away with a scotch on the go, specs on end of nose, still in pj’s, hair a mess blah blah. When really in this day many cram it in around a busy schedule ie on the train. I haven’t had many doubters because I do believe my family so enjoy me running around after them and that I am determined !!!! So to challenge me could result in no more Helen doing everything but me stamping my foot , heading into a room never too emerge and they may have to fend for themselves 😉😉. Bottom line..it would make me more determined to bloody well do it !!

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    1. Ha Ha. Thank you Helen. I’ve been writing on the train today but my default setting is on the sofa, hunched over my laptop. In my pyjamas with my hair standing on end. The only thing that’s missing is the scotch. I gave up the booze five years ago 😉

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  2. Maybe I live in a really writerly area, but the last time I admitted to working on a book, all the women at the table were also doing so. :/ Granted, their ideas were less snarky than mine.
    I think your plot description sounds really neat! What’s NOT to like?!
    How was the Gruffalo in the garden, by the way?

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    1. The Gruffalo is gone. He kept pooing in the flower bed so we sent him on his way. That must have been some table. I have yet to mix in such high brow company. I’m glad you like my plot description. You will have 400 pages on that landing in your in box before the end of the year 😂

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      1. I hope my poor inbox and attention span can handle it. 🙂
        Katie and I were discussing your gardening duties, by the way, over on her thread. We were wondering just how much you’d encourage or intervene in our work-avoiding conversations…

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  3. Your lovely Fionnuala sounds a bit like my husband. Don’t let her divorce you. Lol. Motivation comes in many forms. Keep going and enjoy the process. You’re inspiring a lot of us who feel we have a book within us but have talked ourselves out of taking the risk of putting it out there.

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  4. I’m about a third way done my first novel. And hey, that makes two of us! No one cares about my book either! It’s hard when you’re so excited about something and people seem to show no interest whatsoever 😕Even my husband could care less about it…sigh, well I guess that just means less people to dedicate my book to, no one reads that part anyways, do they?!?

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      1. THANK YOU for asking! You’re literally the first to do so! My book is about an unusually special teacher in a small town school. When an abused boy who is unnoticed and forgotten by the world enters his classroom, not only does the teacher help him, but his life is also changed by the boy in the end. The book is based on my childhood elementary school and my favorite jr high teacher 🙂

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        1. I’m intrigued. 🙂 By “special” do you mean something mystical or magical?
          I think that the story is never as important as how you feel about sharing it. I read movie plots for shows I can’t get to, and they sound really lame -then when I finally get to view them, I am surprised at how entertaining they are. If an author has deep feelings in her story, she will write it from those feelings, work to have it see light, and be invested enough to keep at it.
          My two cents, anyway. Keep going!

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          1. Haha I guess in some ways I believe that people who can gain the respect and bring the best out of just about anyone have special powers. The real draw behind my story is the absolute presence of the characters. Each has an unforgettable personality, except of course, the main character himself. There’s a whole back story that goes on about the history of a murder in the town, which actually is just as important to the plot as the part I already explained. I guess since I’ve never explained the plot before, I’m new at this 😜

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            1. There’s all sorts of advice out there. I think the best is to keep writing.
              You’re not going to please everyone, especially with the number of writers out there. I often wonder if best-selling is even possible with the rise of electronic distraction and so many creative people accessing printing materials. So… just keep at it and any readers who also connect with your story will be bonus points. 🙂

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          1. I try to write after my five kiddos are in bed…I’m also a runner and an early riser so I sleep just about never lol. Optimisticly, I’m hoping to finish it by the end of summer. A more realistic estimate would be by the end of 2018. My biggest obstacle is not knowing a single thing about how to get it published!

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  5. Oh and by the way, I thought I’d add, even though I rarely comment, yours is just about the only blog that I follow that I regularly read. So keep up your writing! I enjoy your style very much and I’m looking forward to reading your book as well 😃

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  6. What I found about writing “The Lawman: The Cross and the Badge”, was it was therapeutic. For years and years I’ve told people about my adventures and cases I’ve worked, and they all told me to write a book. I kept telling them that Forrest Gump has already been written (no one would believe it anyway). but I couldn’t. It wasn’t until I gave the experiences to a different character, put the deeds and words in his life, that I was able to sit back, and look at event objectively. So, I don’t know about insanity. I do know it’s good for the soul.

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    1. It’s great to hear the thoughts of a published author, William. I agree that writing is therapeutic and very satisfying. You seem to have had quite the life. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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  7. I would say just keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, focus on the mechanics of what you’re doing, breathe and persist. Some days it’s going to feel wonderful and the words will flow other days it will feel like banging your head against the wall and that’s okay, it’s just part of the process. Just do a little bit every day–you can do this!

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  8. It’s a great feeling being so near the end of a novel! I’m at the same last .2 mile stretch, tweaking my book through a final round of editing before I upload it to Kindle in October.

    Good luck with yours (I’ll keep an eye out for it) and remember that just finishing a novel is an accomplishment not equaled by many.

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  9. Doubters or doomsayers can shove off. It’s MY dream, not theirs.

    You’re at the .2 – you’ve completed 260 times that already! If that isn’t amazing progress and something to take some satisfaction in, then what is? You’re not going to let the wee bitty .2 win. You got this! *shakes pom-poms*

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      1. It’s much easier to be part of the squad when I don’t have to worry about being thrown into the air, to do a triple flip of Olympic caliber insanity. You’re a terrific writer, Stephen. You have vision, and a voice, and I’m really looking forward to seeing this book on the shelves.

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  10. Hmmm . . . I know of what you speak. I learned from an early age to just keep my mouth shut about my writing, except with my absolute nearest and dearest. Even then . . . one individual who was my very best friend for a few years recently told a mutual acquaintance, “I guess it’s her outlet.” She also made a comment about my previous profession, “So much for the career.”

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  11. It can be frustrating with those stares of, “Oh, you’re writing a book…” My situation tends to be people act excited for me and say, “I support you,” but then…it seems all of their support lasted only in those few words. I agree too when we find someone who is actually interested it really is a boast of encouragement.

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      1. Stuck…technically. It’s been hard to find a decent balance between blogging and writing. I’m also at a point where I’m RIGHT about to really push the story along, I just have to write the one small piece to get me to the next chapter. I feel like my brain power has been draining. With the collab story I’ve been working on, the blogging, and the book, it definitely has taken a back seat. But the collab story is actually written, and with my schedule finally loosening up I’m excited. As soon as I begin Ch. 8 I will let you know to keep myself accountable. Thank you so much for asking! 🙂

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          1. Thanks so much!!! It is true, anyone can be an author. Skills can happen in time, that’s how I’ve learned the most as a novelist. I’m glad I could encourage you to try.

            I can definitely work on sending you Ch. 1 🙂 I think today I’m going to work on Ch. 7 and get it completed so I can jump into Ch. 8. It is not writer’s block. I’m at point where I’m slowly starting to pull the reader into the world of the character, and briefly dust off some stories certain characters know WELL but the reader is just getting a glimpse. In past novels, some of these backstories I’ve written in complete detail, so I am EXTREMELY familiar with what is going on. But it feels painstaking draining to get these words across the page, and I know what I want to do. It’s just endurance through it. 🙂 Despite the pull of drainage I’m excited as well, not bored, not, “Oh, I don’t like this.” It is like pulling teeth, except words and pulling the images out of my mind onto paper. There’s so much, and I am careful to make sure what I give, despite my test readers desiring more, it has to be in bite size pieces, otherwise it is way too much.

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  12. You’ve got that something special in your writing that draws others into your world. We see it daily in your blog and can’t wait to see it in your fiction. Prayers for the last .2 miles, friend…

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  13. Funnily enough I was having a conversation recently with a fellow blogger and we noticed that sometimes friends can be more jealous than strangers. When I got married, a few of my single and married friends found this hard to accept – I’d been single for so long and they had grown accustomed to referring to ‘poor little Kate’ in the tiny cottage with those two little boys. Suddenly I had moved up and away from this drab place in their head and it made them very uncomfortable. I think people like us in our little boxes and they worry if we look as though we might have an opportunity to be breaking out and moving up and away. They are secretly jealous.
    As for the final .2 …. Force the exhaustion, negativity, fear of failure out, out, out by reminding yourself that this is THE MOST EXCITING TIME OF YOUR LIFE! You’re one of life’s winners and you’re so nearly there. And if all else fails guzzle an entire pack of coconut mushrooms.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not so sure about one of life’s winners. I’d be perfectly happy with a scoreless draw at present. I can’t think of a single person I know who would be jealous of me but thank you anyway and thank you so much for your lovely letter.

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  14. Ignore the critics and follow your passion (of course, as long as that does not mean killing someone lol). It appears to me that you write from your heart and you seem to be good at finding the right words. There is no such thing as perfection so I think you can only rewrite so much. You can always “fix the bugs” for book 2 🙂

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  15. I think it’s awesome that you’re almost finished with your novel. Some people have no idea how difficult it is to write a story, let alone a novel. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that not everyone is meant to be included in your vision. We have to just ignore the negative and hold on to the positive. Can’t wait to read your book!

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  16. Be careful what you wish for. Comes the day when everyone’s first question is, “So what are you writing nowadays?” And if you tell them, they say, “But are you still writing real books?” Meaning poetry or fiction 🙂

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  17. You mention running for the crowd. They can be so brutal. Ignorantly or not. I say write for yourself. It is your baby. If you don’t like it then change what you don’t like until you get to a point where you are happy with it. Then let the chips fall where they may. Some people you’ve never known may turn out to love it while all the naysayers might be jealous hold outs just for ego. You know?

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  18. First of all… We are headed to the post office early next week! So your letter is almost on its way!
    A lot of people are doubters with what I do, too. If I’m like, “I’m a dancer,” or ” I’m a blogger,” or “I’m learning sign language,” or even “I want to be a missionary when I grow up,” they’re like, “Oh that’s nice.” I let it roll off my back! I’ll just surprise them later. 😉

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  19. Hi Stephen long time i know. Continue on the path that you started on with the book. i remember when you first started writing it. I was behind you then and although i rarely post these days i am still behind you now. Prove all the haters and doubters wrong…….Those who get uncomfortable when you mention it, obviously lack the intelligence for you to engage with them. Hope all is well with the family? Peace and Love

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  20. As someone working full-time (and being a caregiver when not), I so understand that “journey” to another plain . . . catching glimpses of characters and scenes while configuring reports, considering alternatives to devised twists and turns while someone’s yammering about technical issues. Many a time I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, simply because I’ve felt (and do feel) overwhelmed. But there’s a writer deep within my heart and soul, and she gives me the nudges (kicks in the butt) when I need them most. Keep at it, my friend. Take a breather now and again, but NEVER stop and NEVER give up!

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