The World Needs Your Novel

cookie and cup of coffee with laptop on wooden table.

This is the tagline for Nanowrimo’s 30 day challenge. When I first read it, feeling beat up from the process of working on completing my first novel, the slogan inspired me. “Ah, yes, the world! I forgot about the world. Get back out there, weary writer – blizzard or no blizzard. Frostbite or hypothermia – no retreating! The world needs you to see this through.”

Yep.  Pass the cookies and cappuccino.  My novel is needed.

Only, that’s not how you feel. Granted, I did feel I could cry when I read the tagline this month on a particularly “I can’t” day. Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give type cry. Why? When you’re not a paid author you sacrifice a lot to continue with your “art” but, of course, it doesn’t look like “art” at all. Certainly the world doesn’t think of you as an artist yet. You could collect depression-era glass or be writing a novel – it’s all the same to “the world”.   You’re not the struggling artist to them but a wanna be. Unless you succeed. Then your story is riveting and “the world” tells it over and over again.

Last year at this time, on , there was a post suggesting alternate taglines for nanowrimo’s tagline, written by Mallory Ortberg. Two of my favorites were:

November 1-30 | “NaNoWriMo: There are 3.7 trillion novels in the ocean. We’re looking for one.”

November 1-30 | “NaNoWriMo: a thousand voices whispering at once: Hello, Dan.”

One stressor new writers have is that on a discouraging day you do realize that there are “3.7 trillion novels in the ocean” and agents, editors, and even readers, are choosing just one for this moment. Maybe another in a couple of days or weeks. The odds are not great your novel will be the “one”.

The internet and the path forged by many self-published and traditional authors has helped us all learn how to better connect with potential readers or agents/editors. And in so doing, the vast ocean becomes a more pleasurable family day at the beach with novels washing up to shore. Let us call it Books in a Bottle.  Writing is hard work and talent and je ne sais quoi.  It’s a joy to be a writer and write. But tough. Very tough.  So, it’s natural not to want our book to be lost at sea.

And how on target to allude to the novel writing process leading you to “Hello, Dan.” or “Hello, Maria.” or “Hello, insert name.” If there really was a Writer’s Anonymous so many of us would be there. Not because writing is an unhealthy addiction, but we need the support and accountability. Though not an addiction, if you’re finishing up revisions or are competing in nanowrimo – writing will take on some obsessive characteristics that take you off the grid a bit. You can’t be as social during these seasons if you want to get your writing goals accomplished. That’s why I visit writers’ blogs a few times a week. Or ‘writers on writing’ blogs.  Connecting in ways like this fortifies us for our next effort and retains our membership card in the mainstream . . . or offstream . . . any stream for that matter.

So, if the world needs your novel – how can you possibly make it through the arduous process to get it done?

Joanna Penn from blogged about the London Screenwriter’s Festival she recently attended where she wrote that Chris Jones, (of who opened the festival, addressed the attendees “with a rousing speech to get out there and create the stories that ignite passion within you. He talked about how others may think we’re crazy and tell us to get a real job, but at events like this, we are amongst peers. We know each other.”

We need that. As professional writers, even as wanna be writers – we need to keep learning and to connect with other writers. In counseling, this is always true with clients. One of the first things you need to do is help a client not feel alone in whatever circumstance they are coming from. I counseled a few years, not decades, but already “nothing new under the sun” was the case. As much as we might feel no one can relate to what we’re going through, that is rarely the case. If ever.

So, whether you get together with a good friend who is a writer, embark on a nanowrimo challenge, attend conferences or read blogs – it’s important to reach out every once in a while and realize you’re not the only person writing a novel or doing whatever it is you need camaraderie for. That being said, being careful who you reach out to is also important.   Penn wrote on the same post, “Choose the people you spend time with wisely and they will buoy you up in this creative career. I feel this a lot in the author community, and avoid any toxic situations/ forums/ people as much as possible. Life is short – it’s important to make good choices about who we spend it with.” Good advice.

So, the hard truth is – the world, right now, doesn’t care about your novel. Writing is often solitary – both the demons you fight and dreams you have. That’s why it’s important to open your writing life to others so that you can connect to the art, business and life of a writer. When you read of an author’s success, it resonates. And when you read about their travails, it does too.

In nanowrimo’s Pep Talk this week, Brandon Sanderson wrote, “The toughest moment in my writing career came in 2002. I had just finished my 12th novel, but so far hadn’t been able to sell a single one of the things. Earlier that year, I had been rejected by all 13 MFA programs I’d submitted to . . . . But in 2002, I sat there, contemplating my future with despair, completely unaware that within months I’d have a major book deal.”

How impressive is that? How many of us would have the guts to hang in there after all that? It helped that in 2002, Sanderson was only in his mid-twenties. Rejection early on is still difficult, it’s still rejection. But there’s usually less at stake. Nevertheless, good for him! I don’t think I could have 12 novels rejected and 13 MFA programs pass on my app and sit down to write my 13th novel.  This guy’s a writer.

I’ve become a writer over time. Sanderson reminds us that,”You could be writing the book that changes your life. You could have already submitted it, or self-published it. The spark could be starting a fire for you as well. You don’t know, and you can’t know. That is the thrill of being an artist, of working for yourself, and of telling the stories you want to tell.”

So, maybe the world needs my novel and The Summoned Guest will change my life. Or your novel (or endeavor if you’re not a writer) will change yours.

Maybe not. The point is we hope someone or a lot of someones need what we’re busy toiling away at.  What I do know is that I need to write.

Turns out, I need my novel. And maybe one day I’ll find out that the world does too.

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