I’ve had a lot of people comment and ask how it is that I have time to write a novel, or how does a person write a novel at all? Well, both of those questions weighed heavily on my mind as I thought about writing my own book. Where would I get the time? After all, I’ve got a job, a wife, kids, a dog, did I mention a wife? Yeah, those things take time, as they should, and I wasn’t willing for them to sacrifice so that I could live out my goal of writing a novel. I was confused. I didn’t know how to answer those questions.
Then, I ran across a book written by the author Stephen King called On Writing. If you are struggling with these questions yourself, do yourself a favor and read his book. All of a sudden, I knew how I actually did have time to write, and he gave me the blueprint of how to map out a novel in the first place.
So lets start with the easier question to answer – time. Where will I get the time to write a novel?
For Stephen King, it’s not a matter of sitting down for hours at a time (yeah, like I’ve got time for that) and just write. Instead, based on his advice, I started writing just a little bit every day. My rule was that every time I’d turn on my personal laptop (not the one for my day-job), I’d go straight into Microsoft Word and write for fifteen minutes. That’s it. Fifteen minutes. So, all of a sudden, I wasn’t faced with this daunting thing that had to be fed daily as though it were a horse. It’s just fifteen minutes. I minimized everything on my laptop’s screen, and brought up only Word. That way I’d have no distractions, especially from email. And day by day, in little groups of fifteen minutes, I strung together a novel. Did I ever exceed the fifteen minutes? Sure, all the time, but that was when I wanted to, had the time, and had a lot of words pouring out of me. It was my choice.
But how do I actually write a novel anyway?
Here, King is brilliant as well. Keep in mind that there are many ways to write a novel. Some people have great success mapping out every little detail in advance. They create an extensive outline, then do lengthy character studies. And if that’s the way you do it, great. Have at it. But for me, that was a deal killer. I’d never be able to organize it all, much less have the patience to do all that pre-work.
Instead of all that mess and hoo-ha, Stephen King suggests you follow this thought process very closely:
Stories are things to be discovered, or excavated. They aren’t planned. You create them as you go.
It’s your job to slowly uncover the story that exists somewhere within you. And here’s why that works so well – if you come up with a plot, then outline that plot prior to writing, then you’ve already pigeon-holed yourself into following that path. You’ll miss out on all the other things that can only come through unrestrained creativity. So, don’t restrain your creativity by mapping out a plot. Instead, do what he does. Ask yourself just one simple question. That question becomes the basis of your entire book. For example, here are two of the questions King came up with for his own writing:
1- What if a writer, struggling with alcoholism and his own writing, were to become a remote hotel’s winter caretaker, thus being completely isolated from the rest of society. Oh, and by the way, what if the hotel were also haunted?
That question generated the book, The Shining
2- What if vampires descended on a New England town? What would happen?
That question generated the book, ‘Salem’s Lot
3- What if, during an investigation, the CIA started funding a terrorist organization in order to work their way up to the higher levels in the organization?
That question generated the book The Fourteenth Protocol. Well, okay, so that’s not a Stephen King novel, but King wishes it were : )
There are a ton of other really valuable bits of info that King provides in On Writing. A highly suggested read for burgeoning authors.