How many times have you finished reading a novel and said, “I could have written that book.” You know what? You’re right. All of us, I believe, carry at least one novel around in our heads or our hearts. Novelist Toni Morrison put it this way: “If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Writing a book is no easy task. Nevertheless, every day another book is published.
In 1996, according to Books in Print, 1.3 million book titles were in print. The number of books published in 1996 alone was 140,000 in the United States. So, why not you?
What you need
I believe that if you can write a simple English sentence (after all, that’s what Ernest Hemingway wrote), are alert to the world around you, and want to write a salable novel — really want to, not just kind of want to — then you can do it. I don’t think anybody ever became a writer by going to a workshop, reading a book, or even reading this article. Writing comes from something internal in a writer. However, this article will save you time, point you in the right direction, and help you write a novel in 100 days or less.
It works. I’ve done it myself several times.
I know what it means to squeeze in an hour or two a day (or night) of writing. It is not easy to write a novel, not when you have a full time job, family, and responsibilities, but it can be done. Most writers, in fact, have had to carry on two lives while they wrote their novel. But once you sell your first book, than maybe you’ll be in the position to quit your day job and devote the rest of your life to writing full time.
Great writers have done it
Yes, you have a job. Yes, you have a family. Neither have stopped great writers in the past. The poet Wallace Stevens was a vice president of an insurance company and an expert on the bond market. The young T.S. Eliot was a banker. William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician. Robert Frost was a poultry farmer. Hart Crane packed candy in his father’s warehouse, and later wrote advertising copy. Stephen Crane was a war correspondent. Marianne Moore worked at the New York Public Library. James Dickey worked for an advertising agency. Archibald MacLeish was Director of the Office of Facts and Figures during World War II.
Drawing from pure emotion
What makes a writer? Perhaps it is a single incident — one that happens early in life and shapes the writer’s sense of wonder and self-awareness.
Take the case of José Saramago, the first Portuguese-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. The son of a peasant father and an illiterate mother, brought up in a home with no books, he took almost 40 years to go from metalworker to civil servant to editor in a publishing house to newspaper editor. He was 60 before he earned recognition at home and abroad with Baltasar and Blimunda.
As a child, he spent vacations with his grandparents in a village called Azinhaga. When his grandfather suffered a stroke and was to be taken to Lisbon for treatment, Saramago recalls, “He went into the yard of his house, where there were a few trees, fig trees, olive trees. And he went one by one, embracing the trees and crying, saying good-bye to them because he knew he would not return. To see this, to live this, if that doesn’t mark you for the rest of your life,” Saramago says, “you have no feeling.”
Begin with that pure emotion. Turn it into prose.
Let us begin
Sinclair Lewis was invited to talk to some students about the writer’s craft. He stood at the head of the class and asked, “How many of you here are really serious about being writers?” A sea of hands shot up. Lewis then asked, “Well, why aren’t you all home writing?” And with that he walked out of the room.
So now it is time for you to be writing.
What follows is your daily log — each day may have words of encouragement, advice, or wisdom or a task for you to do to get your book written. It is what you need to do each day for the next hundred days to write your novel.