Friday, May 09, 2014

Writing: It's Not Enough...

Special announcement: I'm pleased to announce that my novel, Stress Test, is a finalist for the Selah Award (Book Of The Year) from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. The winner will be announced at the conference later this month. I'm honored to be a faculty member at the BRMCWC this year.

Eight years ago, when I began trying to write fiction, I figured that if I completed a novel it would be a significant achievement--sort of like running a four-minute mile or scaling Mount Everest (neither of which I'd even think of attempting). Eventually, I did finish the manuscript of my first novel, More Than A Game. In case anyone's interested, it dealt with a man who failed in his attempt to make it in professional baseball, returned to graduate from medical school, and then--when he's totally burned out in medicine--has a second chance to live his dream playing the game he loves. I liked it, editors did not.

Anyway, I still recall the comment of my biggest fan and most severe critic, my wife, Kay: "It needs more conflict." Hey, I didn't know anything about character development or conflict or the three-act structure or any of those other things that go into a good novel. I wanted to say, "But I just finished writing an entire novel. Isn't that enough?" The answer, of course, was "No."

For everyone who has completed a novel, please know that you have my utmost admiration. You've done something that only a small minority of the population has achieved. But along the way, I suspect you've learned there's a lot more to the process. That's why, when I read the works of polished authors like John Grisham or James Scott Bell or Robert B. Parker, I marvel that they not only wrote complete novels, but that they dotted the i's and crossed the t's of plot and word-smithing and the dozens of other things that go into a good book. To everyone who's done that, I salute you a hundred-fold.

To those who've had the thought, "I should write a novel," my advice is "Go for it." Don't be afraid of failing. Accept that you'll fail the first few times--the first four or forty or four hundred. Keep at it. Just remember that piling up the requisite number of words isn't enough.

Have you ever thought about writing a novel? What's stopping you?

(photo via freedigitalphotos.net)

5 comments:

J Smith said...

Hi Richard,
Yes, I've thought about it, and started, many times. My first was a children's story, and I got about 20K words down and gave up on it, as even I couldn't get myself interested in the plot! Since then, I will get some "earth shattering" plot to pop into my head, either to run out of my ears while I'm fast asleep, or to die the slow, painful death from lack of true attention. It's still something I'd like to work at seriously, but I'm still waiting for the, "Do it!" from the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Richard, on being a finalist! Thank you for this encouraging post that has helped me feel peace about having a lot of conflict in my book. It's nice to know I got that part right.

I'm on the second round of self-editing. This is my first novel, and I'm enjoying writing it more than I ever thought I would.

It's hard work--I admire published authors all the more as I push myself forward through doubts etc. This is not an easy journey--but I'm not stopping until this book is finished (and the next one...)

Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

PS - I appreciated your helpful and honest comment on another blog about the editing process more than I can express with words.

Richard Mabry said...

Judy and Wendy, thanks for your comments. Sorry to be late in responding--life sort of intervened, as it does for us all at times.
Best wishes to both of you as you travel your individual roads to writing. The path isn't easy, but then again, if it were easy there'd be no sense of accomplishment at the end of it.

Carol Garvin said...

I've written five now... loved every moment of being immersed in the words, even when trying to find the right ones frustrated me. The challenge is addicting.

Congratulations on finalling with Stress Test. That's an achievement in itself. Fingers crossed for you.

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Carol. I have to agree with the person who said, "Writers don't so much like to write as they like having written." But it takes one to reach the other. Appreciate your comment.