Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Your Novel: Just Don't Let it Take Over Your Life

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Writing is a lot of fun, but sometimes it can turn into an obsession. It's perfectly normal to have bad days (or even a bad month) where we feel like we're wasting time or getting nowhere. It's even normal to chuck the whole writing idea and ignore it for a while. But don't let the quest for publication turn you bitter. Aside from it not being healthy emotionally, it can actually hurt the writing.

I Love This Story So Much
Everything in moderation is more than a cliche, it's a good rule to live--and write--by. By our natures, writers tend to be solitary, hanging out with imaginary people and immersing ourselves in our own worlds. It's good for us to get out and see this "life" thing we write about all the time. And when we don't? Well, here are a few things that have sabotaged more than a few writers.

Let Me Tell Your About My Book
It's all you think about, so it's all you talk about. Every day, all the time. Aside from potentially annoying friends and family, if you never actually write the book, you'll never get anywhere with it. You can't sell ideas to a publisher, you need the words that explore those ideas. Sit down and start writing.

No, Wait! It's Not Ready Yet
You have a book, but you keep fiddling with it, revising every line, rethinking every plot. You're so worried about making it perfect you never "finish" it. If you want to sell a novel, you have to send it out. If all you're doing is tweaking a word here and there, you're ready. Send it out and start the next novel.

My Book Rocks
On the flip side, are those who love their words so much they don't feel the need to change a single one. While there is the rare writer out there who can write a perfect first draft, odds are it's not you. (Especially if you're getting rejections) Writing is rewriting, and even the greats take time to polish and revise their work. Love the story all you want, but remember that the words to tell that story can change as often as they need to. Revision is your friend.

They Just Don't Know a Good Novel When They See it
"They" can be anyone from friends to agents to editors, but they all have one thing in common: they don't love your novel as much as you do. Even if the story is as good as you think, if no one else is seeing it, something is wrong. The writing may not be at pro level yet, or you haven't gotten everything in your head onto the page. Don't blame others for not recognizing what's great about your work. Get in there and make sure it's clear as day to everyone who reads it.

Why Won't Anyone Love Me?
You love your novel, so do critique partners and friends, but agents and editors don't seem to share that love. This is probably the most frustrating of them all, because you really believe in the story you've worked so hard on. The sad truth is, you can have a good novel and still not be able to sell it. With all the writers out there with good novels, a novel needs to be great to stand out. If the book you love isn't landing anywhere, start a new one. Trust me, I know from experience how hard this can be, but I also know that I wouldn't be published today if I hadn't moved on. I still love my first novel and hope to one day find a way to get others to love it, too, but I couldn't let it hold me back any longer. If this is where you are, let the story go, and get out there and meet new ones. You'll love them, too.

Stories are About Life, not a Substitute for Life
There's nothing wrong with loving what we do, but as writers, we need to be able to bring characters to life. If we never experience life, it makes it kinda hard to portray it well. Inspiration is all around us, but we need to get out there to let it whack us in the head. Writing can be a huge part of your life, just don't let it become everything in your life.

Let it be something you love doing, not something that prevents you from doing anything else.


  1. Great advice. I've been working on the same manuscript for years. I've gotten some good feedback but never been able to finish it. I just got an editor critique and I realize it needs one more revision for voice and then have a final review by my critique partner. But I'm realizing it has to be done and I need to send it out whether the result is good or bad. And I'm going to start something new. My first book that I love may not be "the book", at least now.

    And I'm also realizing there are times life prevents me from writing. I work full time and have a 13 year old. She'll be grown and out of the house in a few years. I don't want my writing to take up all the time I would spend with her. And that's okay if I write a bit slower.

  2. You made some great points with this post! If you you love your novel too much it's as if your smothering it and not giving it a chance to grow and become better. You can love your novel but you have to show iti some tough love too!

  3. Great post- perfect for valentine's day.

  4. I love this post. So many good points.

  5. Ah, such great points. I'm currently in the "it's not ready yet" category. It's tough for me to know when it's cooked and ready to put on the table.

  6. Natalie: It's totally okay to write slower when you need to. There's enough pressure associated with getting published you don't need to add to that :) We'll cheer you on when you're ready and send that first manuscript out.

    M. McGriff: Tough love for sure :) Great phrase for that.

    Chicory: Thanks! That was the inspiration.

    CherylAnne: Thanks!

    Julie: That's hard on pretty much everyone, especially for that first book. It gets easier as you write, though. :)

  7. Thank you for this reminder, Janice! I had to let go of my first novel too. It was hard, and I was discouraged for a little while, but I would never be where I am today had I not moved on!

    Caitlin @ Quills & Coffee

    1. Same here! It's hard sometimes, even with later novels, but it's starting to hurt your life, it's time to stop. Oh, this just game me an idea for a post! Thanks!

    2. Exactly! And I'm so glad! Can't wait for the post 😊