A novel doesn’t write itself

A novel doesn’t write itself, I said to my mother the other day. Of course not, you say. But there’s more to this sentiment than the obvious. A novel needs its author to sit down almost every day and put words on the page, fingers to keyboard or whatever. And there are times when this is the last thing you want to do.

I write with an outline – I’m a planner not a seat-of-the-pantser. Each chapter has brief notes about the action that takes place, whose voice is in charge, the setting and, if necessary, a date or time. These days each chapter also has a note about the key plot point. In other words, I know where I’m going with the story and the major steps to get there.

And yet – inertia sets in. The brain doesn’t want to engage. The fingers are reluctant. My butt doesn’t want to sit in that ergonomically designed chair. For me, it’s almost a physical feeling.

When does this happen?

  • when I’ve just finished what I consider a great scene
  • when a scene isn’t working
  • when a character doesn’t want to cooperate – yes, they do that sometimes
  • when the writing feels like crap
  • when I think I’m making progress only to realize I’m less than half done

So you see, inertia can happen anytime. What’s the cure? Sorry folks, there’s no easy cure, no pill you can take, no mantra you can chant. You just have to get that butt back into the seat and keep going.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

10 thoughts on “A novel doesn’t write itself”

  1. Sometimes you need to “get into character” to write a scene. It’s a little like acting, you set up a scene and then expect your characters to respond appropriately. Sometimes this won’t happen until hours later, when you’re getting ready for bed or taking a bath, and all of a sudden you know what your character was supposed to say. Then you hope and pray there is a paper and pen nearby….

  2. That’s the truth! Butt in the chair, one word after another. Sometimes I will do an on-line critique through a group I belong to; editing activates my creative centers, I guess? But there’s no substitute for putting in the time.

  3. So very true, Mary. Seems like lately, it’s been more butt in the chair working on marketing, then butt in the chair working on a novel. I’m missing my characters. It’s harder (at least for me) to sit down and write when it’s the tedious things like marketing plans and book proposals.

  4. […] https://awriterofhistory.com/2018/02/20/a-novel-doesnt-write-itself/ “A novel doesn’t write itself, I said to my mother the other day. Of course not, you say. But there’s more to this sentiment than the obvious. A novel needs its author to sit down almost every day and put words on the page, fingers to keyboard or whatever. And there are times when this is the last thing you want to do.” You just have to do it! […]

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