Hello, dear readers!
Welcome to our first post in our revamped Wondering Wednesdays series! As we mentioned in our previous intro post, we’re really, really excited for this new series and hope that you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Series One for Wondering Wednesdays is all about writing that first draft. So, for us, we thought there was no better place to begin the series than with that lovely, terrifying and freeing thought:
So, you want to write a novel?
Here are your muses to tell you about our experiences when we first encountered that question and a little about what we’ve learned since then.
Joyce: First, I was a reader who never dreamed that I could ever write my own novels. I would devour books in a day and then hunger for more. And I only really started to write stories when I was 11.
I remember the first novel I wrote when I was 11. Under the encouragement of my English teacher, I wrote a mystery novel (I was really into the Nancy Drew series then) for a nationwide contest. Didn’t win anything, of course. It was a scrappy first attempt at writing a novel, but that changed everything for me. It made me fall irrevocably in love with writing novels. I loved the thought process, I loved creating characters, developing plots, making them do and feel things, building the story up to the climax, and I loved that whoosh at that point, followed by the emotional payoff. It was exhilarating, it was nothing like I’d ever experienced.
Since then, that love for the craft and the process of novel-writing have only grown deeper and keener, and writing became a calling. A way for me to make sense of the world, of myself, of where I fit into my world. A way to understand others, to explore other realities, to imagine new worlds.
Writing became part of my identity, my being. I saw the world – people, stories, quotidian occurrences – through the eyes of a writer, and I like to think that it has made me grow from that wide-eyed kid who used to curl up on the couch, reading intently, into someone who is more empathetic, more open-minded, and more curious.
As a kid, then a teenager, I didn’t write to get published. Publishing a book had never crossed my mind, because I thought I’d have to pay publishers to publish my novels (NOT TRUE AT ALL). So I wrote for the love of writing, and that made me free of any expectations. Lately, I’ve been trying to get back to that mindset. To just write for the fun of it, without pinning any expectations of getting published. To write because I just enjoy the process, the craft. Not because of what it might yield.
It’s been a pretty tumultuous journey, but I wouldn’t change anything about it. Every novel I wrote taught me something new, every sentence I rewrote made me more attentive to my craft, and every new story I dreamed up made me fall in love with the process all over again. And that’s more than what that reader who never dreamed that she could ever write her own novels can ask for.
Meredith: I was always a bookworm growing up, and my favorite part of school was going to the library to find a new book. (Or the Scholastic book fair. It was like Christmas morning but IN the library!!) I loved getting lost in those worlds and going on adventures with characters. I remember writing stories for school projects and loving the creative process, but that fell by the wayside in high school. I started writing a novel mid-way through university based off an idea I’d been mulling over for years, but I never finished it. It was a haphazard collection of characters and I had only a vague idea of where the story would go. But I was hooked, because guess what – it was historical fiction (surprise surprise), and writing it meant I could time travel, something I always dreamed of doing since I was a child.
Getting to inhabit not only another place but another time, another century or millennium entirely? To walk in the shoes or boots or sandals of people who had died long ago, but were once just as alive as we are now? It was a profound realization, and one that’s kept me coming back to historical fiction now that I’ve started writing novels for real. I love finding historical events that have been lost or forgotten, or stories of everyday people who (I think) deserve to be remembered. And while my main goal is to tell the best story I can, and I try not to ‘let the truth get in the way of a good story’, if I can honor those people’s memories at the same time? I can think of nothing more satisfying.
(Now if only I can figure out how to invent that time machine…)
Nicole: It’s almost weird, thinking back and trying to figure out exactly when I started wanting to write novels. The first story I can remember writing was back in…5th, 6th grade, I think? And it featured my classmates as my characters (with my crush and my best friend as the main duo) and flying pigs and skeletons with buckets of bloody daggers that actually gave me nightmares. I have no idea where that story went, but I definitely have been writing since a young age.
Then, in high school, my freshman year, I started writing a novel. I think I have one draft of it, sitting shamed in a box somewhere (because it’s that shite). I can’t remember how I came up with the idea for it. I’m pretty sure I was just stealing ideas from my favorite fantasy novels at that point and trying to come up with my own story. I do remember it featured dragons, a quest in search of a the broken pieces of a sword and a band of characters that included a pair of shapeshifting twins who I think have always lived in the back of my head, wanting their story told, even though I can’t even remember their names. I wrote almost 100 pages of that novel, got teachers to read it, even. I never finished it and looking back, it was complete shit. But it also was the most amazing thing, because I just wanted to write, so I did.
I ended up not writing a complete draft of a novel until my senior year of high school/freshman year of college. It was interesting, at that time, because I didn’t think about the nuances of writing. I wasn’t concerned about how to make a story good or marketable or how to publish it. I only knew that I was going to. I had this confidence that was tied into the reason I was writing in the first place, the answer I gave whenever someone asked, “Oh, you want to write a novel?” or “Why do you want to write a novel?”
I’m a writer. It’s what I do.
Since, I’ve lost a lot of that confidence and fearlessness I had writing that first book. I wouldn’t mind getting more of it back. Sure, that book didn’t go on to be published–and I’ve written half a dozen since then–but I think it’s always helpful to go back and think to why you want to write a novel or why you started this journey, whether it was 20 years ago or just last night. For me, it helped me remember a fearless confidence that, if I imbued my stories with now, after everything I’ve learned after writing for 10 years, makes me wonder: where could my stories go?
Only one way to find out.
And there you have it!
We hope you enjoyed this post and that our own stories helped encouraged or inspired you. If you’re considering writing a novel, whether for the first time ever, starting a new project after a long break or even as a veteran; and you feel unsure or need a peep talk, we hope you know that you can always reach out to any of us! Either here, in the comments, through our email or on Twitter, whether our Muses account or any of our personal accounts! One of the main reasons we’re doing this series to begin with is because we never want any writer to feel alone on their journey and we want to help, whether it’s through these blog posts or directly!
So thank you for stopping by and checking out our post, dear readers. You’ll don’t realize how much we appreciate it. ❤