Novel Writing, Writers on Writing

You should write your novel this summer


Stephen King, American author best known for h...
I bet even the King of horror probably thinks his first drafts totally suck. | Stephen King, American author best known for his enormously popular horror novels. King was the 2003 recipient of The National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Taken at the 2007 New York Comicon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A cousin-friend recently sent me the first page of a novel she’s writing and asked me if I thought it was any good. She writes some beautiful prose, but I thought she was a little too worried about the “goodness” of her novel at this stage in the writing process. So, I gave her the following advice:

I’ll tell you what I recommend (and a lot of famous published authors seem to agree): Just sit down and mind-dump your story without thinking about whether it’s any good. Stephen King wrote a really great memoir on writing, where he talks about how you should never spend more than a season (3 months) writing a rough draft. Your rough draft will probably seem like garbage, but that’s how it is for everyone (even Stephen King). Once you have your story dumped out on the page, then you can go back and start revising it to make it “good.”

I have issues with writing a rough draft on the computer… I just can’t do it. All those squiggly lines in the Word document seem to beg me to stop and fix them. But when you do that, you stop the flow of your story from pouring out of your subconscious mind and onto the page. I have to do all of my writing manually, using pen and paper, and then type it up and revise in a Word document.

Your best writing will come from your subconscious mind. You use a completely different part of your brain for editing. So, when you let your inner editor get involved in the writing process, it disrupts the flow of your story. If you can figure out how to send your inner editor on vacation for the summer, you could totally finish a rough draft of your novel in this one season. Then spend as much time as you need on revisions after you have your story on the page.

As I typed up these words via Facebook messaging, it occurred to me that many of my readers may be considering writing a novel, or are maybe already struggling with one. I know I am struggling with my first draft. But if I (and all of you, too) took my own advice to heart, I could probably finish my first draft by the end of this summer. And so could you.

I’ve spent a lot of time complaining about the fact that I probably won’t get more than one or two classes to teach this summer, and how I will be too broke to do anything with all of the free time I expect I will have. But I think the time has come to look at this as an opportunity.

It’s so hard to get any writing done during the academic year when I’m teaching seven courses. I have decided this is the year when I will refuse to spend the summer hunting for a “better” job that I know I will hate simply because it will not include writing fiction. Instead, I am going to use all of my “free” time this summer to finally complete the first draft of my novel.

I am going to schedule writing time five days a week like a regular job, and I am going to stick to it. I am going to embrace the writer’s life and do what a writer is meant to do: write. Who’s with me? I challenge you to write the first draft of your novel this summer. Please comment below if you are in.

~Mandy Webster

9 thoughts on “You should write your novel this summer”

  1. You will amaze yourself if you commit to writing every day. There is a great book of prompts that I naturally do not recall the title of but I wrote things I had never thought to write when I worked through the book.
    Hopping out of bed and sitting with your notebook is a great habit to start

    1. I have found that the more I practice, the easier it is to write every day. Right now, I’m stealing a few minutes here and there every day, but I am planning hours at a time for the summer. Now that I’ve committed to it, I can’t wait!

  2. After writing two novellas as a way of getting my feet wet, I started the rough draft for my first novel 03/27. I would love to finish it by the 4th of July, but in all honesty I’d still settle for finishing by Labor Day. Then starts the agonizing revision process. Also, thanks for linking to my blog!

  3. Good luck and good writing! It wasn’t until I retired from teaching six years ago that I really got serious about my writing. And I’ve discovered that scheduling regular “writing time” is a must. Keep us posted.

  4. First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I have had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Thank you!

    1. Sometimes the best way to clear your mind is to just start writing. Don’t stare at the page while you try to figure out what to write, work it out on the page. Put your pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, and write whatever comes to mind. I find I figure out what I want to write a lot faster that way. You have to be willing to give yourself up to the pen or the keyboard and trust your brain/finger connection to do the work.

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