All The Write Words But Not Necessarily In The Write Order

Elaine Roberts Asks “Can Anyone Write A Novel”?

When I tell anyone I’m trying to write a novel, the response is nearly always the same. The first one is “I could write a book”. My response is to smile and give words of encouragement. I talk about attending creative writing classes, joining a writing group and writing associations like the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) New Writers Scheme for guidance and encouragement. After I have given my encouragement the conversation usually ends with something along the lines of “Maybe one day, I don’t have the time right now”.

The second and most popular one is “When’s your best seller coming out?” To which I often smile and say something polite and self-effacing but in my head I think, “If I was learning to play the piano, no one would suddenly expect me to become a concert pianist”.

Is it hard to be a writer?                                                 securedownload

Staring at the blank computer screen, I’m looking for inspiration, intermittently glancing down at the keyboard, panic is starting to set in. “What am I going to write?” my mind is as blank as the white page on the screen in front of me. “Oh God, I can’t do it any more, I’ve lost the ability to write a story!” This scene is familiar; it’s how nearly every writing session starts for me.

Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can read back over the last couple of paragraphs and that will inspire me to carry on writing. However, what usually happens is that I start editing what I have previously written and when I do that, I never seem to move past the first chapter, because I’m forever rewriting it. Personally, when I’m trying to get started, it helps me to write a couple of lines about a character or scene. It doesn’t have to be correct, just something to kick start my imagination and when I’ve finished I inevitably end up deleting those first few lines. A similar thing happens if I say I’m going to try and write 500 words, it’s amazing how the time speeds by and a few hours later, I will have written a few thousand words.

When I plan my work properly, I will have a scene/chapter plan, which will have ideas of what I’m trying to achieve with this scene and what I want to include, this will include the senses, weather and clothing being worn, I have been known to forget to dress my characters. All of this kick starts the thinking process.

Will I ever be the writing equivalent of the concert pianist? Probably not, but I like to think I started off as the Eric Morecombe style pianist, having all the right notes but not necessarily playing them in the right order. But hoping I can aspire to be the writing equivalent of Elton John, maybe.

So the question was, can anyone write a novel?

I believe anyone can, who is prepared to listen, take advice and exercise patience and perseverance, but above all else, be able to exercise their imagination muscle. It takes time and hard work but if you are like me writing is an irresistible pull, just like the chocolate sitting in the fridge calling me.

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14 thoughts on “All The Write Words But Not Necessarily In The Write Order

  1. An excellent piece, Elaine. A TV series once featured the most desirable jobs and being a writer came out top. Why? It’s seen as an easy option. A job where one can work at home without getting dressed. If only that was true. I’ve seen many people come through the doors of The Write Place who can put pen to paper. It takes much
    more than that to be a writer. One has to absorb the world, soak up what the profession is all about and network, network, network. I watch you doing this and with a hunger that show you will succeed. Not only have you written that book but you will see it published.
    Elaine Everest

    • Thank you Elaine for your kind comments, I have had a life changing sixteen months. I believe this piece sums me up. When I started writing many years ago, before life got in the way, I never realised how much there was to it so I believe I was definitely in the Eric Morecombe camp but I do believe I am heading nearer to Elton John. It’s all about time, effort and listening to the people who can give sound advice and constructive criticism.

  2. It’s amazing what you have achieved in such a little time, Elaine, in spite of your ‘I can’t do it any more’ episodes. You are living proof that it’s possible to write even when you don’t have the time. I’ve had a variety of reactions when asked what I do, most of which illustrate that people don’t understand what a hard slog writing is, even when it’s a passion. Yes, and I’ve had a few of the ‘I’d like to write a book one day’ replies too!

  3. A very encouraging piece of writing to those of us who face the challenges of writing often. Yes, I think everyone probably has a book inside them, but once you start writing, you realise how good you want to make it, how very much you want to see somebody on the bus reading it. I want to write a Maggie O’Farrell quality book, but in a unique voice.

    • Thank you Veronica for taking time out of your busy day to leave a comment. I agree, it must be a thrill to see someone actually reading a novel you’ve written. I’ve experienced that on a small scale with my short stories, I jumped around my empty house screaming with excitement when I sold my first one, it’s such a thrill to know someone thinks it’s good enough to publish it and that was something I didn’t think I could do so it just shows what hard work and perseverance can achieve. The quality is important because I don’t want to be a one book wonder, I want to do it for a living so what readers, publishers and agents think is important.

  4. A lot of people could, if they really wanted to, put enough words together to create something novel length. A lot of people believe that’s all that’s required to write a novel.

    • Hello Patsy, thank you for posting. Your comment made laugh and think “if only”. I could have written ten books by now if that’s all there was to it, mind you I do think I make it hard work, much harder than it needs to be sometimes. I’m sure I’m not alone in the number of edits I do to my work, it seems never ending! I really wish I could just put all the right words together in the right order.

  5. Thank you Francesca. It is hard fitting the writing into what’s already going on in our lives, as I’m sure you and any other writer know only too well, but as you say it’s a passion. Even when I’ve had thoughts of not doing it anymore after a day or two I’m there switching on my lap top because I can’t stay away from it, it’s a good job I have a supportive family and a very understanding husband.

  6. Well said, Elaine! I have met so many people who say they have the idea or plot for a fantastic novel in their heads and are just waiting until they have the time to write it down. If only it was that easy| – and for the majority of them that time will, of course, never come, because they have not considered the time and dedication and years of practice and hard slog it can take to become an ‘overnight success’ !!

  7. I’ve come late to the party as I’ve been out all morning and I can only reiterate what everyone else has said. It’s been a joy to see you embrace your writing and ‘go for it’. It’s difficult enough anyway without holding down a full time job as you do – though this isn’t in any way reflected in your output. Your keyboard fingers must have wings. A bit like the piano you alluded to. I absolutely love your banner. Eric and Ernie would have been proud!

    • Thank you Natalie, I use to love Eric and Ernie it was must watch television in the days when we only had four channels, do you remember those days? I know I wouldn’t achieve half of what I do without the support of everyone around me, including The Write Place. Writing is all I want to do.

      • Very telling, your last sentence. I couldn’t tell you the number of things I have given up to accommodate it. Thank goodness we both have understanding and supportive husbands. Fortunately I’m able to work in the same room so we do at least see each other. One look at me and he knows whether or not it’s okay to interrupt – usually not!

  8. And yes, I do remember those days. They were a national treasure, weren’t they and even with today’s choices they are still a joy to watch.

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