Writing a Novel: Why Bother?

jim writing

The advent of self-publishing means everyone’s doing it, it seems. Amazon has literally millions of books for sale and the number is increasing every day. Millions of people chasing a dream even though the vast majority will never make a living out of it. I’m not going to give a load of depressing figures about how little money most writers make, or how many make no money at all. If you think that you’re going to make a fortune as a novelist I suggest you take a long hard look at yourself. Yes, it is possible for some people to be full-time fiction writers, but not many are living in lovely houses and driving a Ferrari. And the hard truth is that most writers will need a second job, sizeable savings or an understanding partner.

So why do we do it then? Why bother to write a novel? Why have I written two so far and why am I getting up at the crack of dawn every day to write a third? Why am I planning a series of posts designed to help you write your novel if the chances of success are so small?

Well, there are plenty of very good reasons to write a novel, and, if you go into your writing with a level head and realistic expectations, then why not give it a go.

  • It’s great fun. Really. If you don’t find it fun, or at least really enjoyable, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. What makes it fun? Getting stuck into the research and finding out things you would never have known. Going on lots of research trips. Crafting beautiful sentences that make you sit back and smile to yourself (even if you then cut them out because you know they’re pretentious). Getting involved in worlds and places and with people and situations that are out of reach or unrealistic in real life. Escaping.
  • It’s completely selfish. Completely for you (at the early stages at least). Make a list of all the things in your life you have to do. Cleaning the toilet. Ironing. Going to work. Filling in a tax return. Clearing up dog sick (I’ve done his four times today because someone fed the dogs roast potatoes). You get the idea. But writing your novel – that’s proper you time.
  • You can let your imagination run wild. You can say things, do things, write things that you could never say or do in real life.
  • You’ll have achieved something. Something tangible. I’ve known lots of people who say they’re going to write a book. I worked with a man once who’d had the same book going for twenty years. He’s still not got round to finishing it. If you can find the self-discipline to make time, to knuckle down and write a whole novel, that’s a real achievement. You’ll have done something pretty amazing.
  • You’ll become part of a lovely writing community full of supportive readers and writers and bloggers who will give up their time to help you and offer advice, just because they love reading and writing as much as you do.

Have I convinced you? Are you raring to go? Great, then I hope you’ll enjoy next week’s blog post – Writing a novel: Preparation for Plotters and Pantsters.

sponge bob writing happy gif

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22 comments

  1. It’s funny, after I’d written my first one (22 years ago) I sat back and thought, wow, I wrote a novel, and all my friends went, wow, you wrote a novel… 18-20 (I can never remember the exact number) of the damn things later I forget that yes, it IS something of an achievement. But I no longer think of it in those terms, it’s just what I do. I don’t even enjoy 50% of it (the bits when I can’t think of a way to make the plot work feasibly, when the first draft is like wading through treacle, when I go through the arguments the final read through entails – I love him really…), but I just feel flat and empty and a bit irritable when I’m not doing it. Luverly post!

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    1. Thanks Terry. That many novels (and good ones at that judging by what I’ve read) certainly is an achievement. I know what you mean though – I stopped writing for a while and just felt a bit ‘bleurgh’. Now I’ve started really going for the next one, I’m much happier (or so my family say anyway!) Sometimes the actual process doesn’t feel all that enjoyable, but I know deep down that I do love it really 🙂

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  2. No convincing needed here… I’ve been play acting with writing for years, until I started taking it seriously. Now I can’t stop.
    After a brush with death I only follow my passions. All for love & happiness.

    Happy writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I never thought about it being selfish before, but I suppose it is. It is one of the hardest things I have ever attempted, but I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. The fact that I may never be rich has never bothered me, I just visualise people reading my books…

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  4. I’ve started my first proper novel, (my first few died out due to no planning at all), currently two chapters/2,000 words in, and although it’s more of a practice novel, for experience, highly doubtful that it’ll ever get published—along with the frequent days of wanting to pull my hair out in frustration, or move onto a different idea that is more appealing at the time; that’s writing for me, usually—I still enjoy it. There isn’t anything I’d rather do. Even if this novel turns out terrible, and the next does, and the next, I’ll still be proud, because I wrote a damn novel. That’s been my dream for a while.

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  5. I love all the above, it’s the after-you’ve-written-it part that is the bummer. I haven’t worked on my new novel for over a year because I have been publishing and marketing and trying to complete and publish my non-fiction… OK, I know, it’s my choice. I’d better rearrange my timetable.

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    1. I know Hilary – it’s so hard trying to fit all that in. I’m always trying to get more organised, trying to make time for everything, but then something else will crop up and it all goes out the window!

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  6. Brilliant post Alison, you are now officially a soul sister! I wrote my first novel thirty years ago …big gap, finished my second in 2012, now totally addicted and working on number four. Rewards? I am always grateful when I am paid for my job of work, always. But no cheque has ever thrilled me like a fabulous review or handwritten card from a totally unknown reader. I rest my (book) case!

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  7. Novel #2 published early April. One of the questions I’m asked is how long did it take you to write this? I never know how to answer because the years it takes add up; thinking about it, getting started, lingering over it, and finally, the grand push to the final sentence. THEN, starting over with the editing. Maybe the answer to Why Bother? is, I can’t help myself, I love to write, the research you mention, the whole experience. It makes me happy. I want to give readers language for their own experiences, which they recognize in my work. Delighted to be following your consistently fine blog. Thanks for all the work it takes to create.

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