Wit and wisdom for wordsmiths

How 2 kicks in the butt got me started on a novel


Let’s say you had $50 million to invest and you had to decide between sinking it into a Hollywood movie or a Silicon Valley startup. Which would be the better bet?

The answer is, neither. Both Hollywood and Silicon Valley make money from a few big hits. The rest of the time, they lose or break even.

It struck me when I read that that the same is true of novels.  Most of the time, novels don’t make money. Actually, most of the time they’re not even published unless their writers decide to self publish.

I bring this up because a few weeks ago I started writing one – the one that’s been knocking around in  my head for oh, a few decades. My objective isn’t to get published.  It’s simply to write it, enjoy the process, and make it the best I possibly can.

I had two kicks in the butt to do this.

The first was a workshop I took at Grub Street in Boston on structuring a novel. Suddenly, I understood how to construct a framework for a novel, how to construct scenes, how to create tension, and how to make the scenes together.

The second was taking part in Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon 2013, which meant posting a blog every day for a month. Since it was in June, that meant 30 posts.

Michelle’s advice about how to do this is to plan out what you’re going to post ahead of time. But since this was my challenge and I was writing the rules, I decided I wanted to get up every morning not knowing what I was going to write about. And that’s what I did.

Over the course of the month I loosened up, writing posts that sounded more and more like me. I worried less about what readers might expect and more about what I wanted to say to them. I still kept my audience firmly in mind, but felt freer to do it in my own voice.

And I posted every day without fail, so the habit of writing every day, weekends included, got well ingrained.

When the blogathon ended I took a month off, not because I was tired of posting – I wasn’t – but because my 4-year-old tower computer choked to death. Rather than pour money into it I bought a lovely, large-screened HP Pavillion laptop.

But there were a few snags. It turns out that new PCs run Windows 8 these days, an interface so different from its predecessors you get a half-hour’s worth of training when you buy the computer — plus days or weeks to get used to it.

Next I found out that computers that parallel ports have gone the way of coal stoves, so I had to get a new printer too. AND new editions of Office and Outlook.

But Outlook couldn’t find my Gmail address book, which meant another trip to Staples to see if techies David and Rafael, who by now I had gotten to know pretty well, could figure out why. That issue still isn’t completely solved, but I’ve come up with workarounds.

Meanwhile, until I could use the new computer, I wrote fiction exercises longhand. I also did phone interviews to gather background, since the novel is set in the 1920s and  ‘30s.

The upshot? Every morning I get up excited to write. When friends ask when this thing is going to be published, I tell them it probably won’t be. Believe it or not, the writing itself is its own reward.

What’s been on your writer’s bucket list?

Have you ever told anyone about it? Comment above.


5 Responses to How 2 kicks in the butt got me started on a novel

  1. Karen De Jong says:

    Good for you!!

  2. Jean Gogolin says:

    Thanks, Abby. I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Abby Brown-Watson says:

    Thanks Jean. Enjoyed your month of blogs and your growing desire to do your novel. Have fun.

  4. Vilma Sceusa says:

    Good luck with the novel. I have enjoyed reading your posts!
    Vilma Sceusa recently posted..Creating Order One Client At A Time

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