Writing a novel of your own can be an exhausting task. Pouring your heart and soul into the endless pages of romance, fantasy, crime or horror can be paralleled to childbirth or college graduation. These tasks are hardships in themselves but they let us learn a lot about who we are and what made us come to the decisions that brought us there.
Novelists and future writers alike face the same difficulties when coming across new writing challenges, mainly as to how to breathe life into their new ideas. Classics such as Dickens, Lovecraft and Lee all have something useful to teach us even today, so let’s take a look at some of the tips that these all-time favorites have for modern writers.
Miranda July: “Don’t worry about the bad drafts.”
Coming up with a neat idea for your new novel only to find that you are unable to produce a good draft can be disappointing. Bad drafts will always be there no matter how hard we try to perfect our ideas at first. Miranda July’s advice can come across as preachy to the uninitiated, but there comes a time in every writer’s life when you just have to write no matter what comes out of fingertips.
Bad drafts can always be transformed into beautiful works of writing, just like in Miranda’s case where she struggled with initial pitches for her best-selling novels. Something is always better than nothing, so do your best to work systematically and edit your writing afterwards.
Zadie Smith: “Get offline.”
Writing anything without direct access to internet in today’s day and age can be difficult. Accessing the endless repository of knowledge, information and tools that can help us write better pieces is often impossible to resist. This is especially true for future writers and journalism school students who occasionally turn to professional college paper writers and use their help in formatting and editing.
However, if Zadie Smith is to be believed, being offline can actually be positive for our productivity. According to him, writing on an offline computer with no possibility of going online is the best way to write. There is some truth in his words after all – social media platforms and unimportant websites tend to take away precious hours that we would otherwise spend in writing.
Muriel Spark: “Get a cat.”
Muriel Spark is the feline lover among the classics. Her writing has always been inspired by her favorite cat, meaning that she couldn’t have done what she did without it. Cats have always been a popular choice for domesticated animals as they provide comfort and stress relief when you need it the most. Having any breed of cat sitting next to you or occupying the same living space while you work on your new novel can be just the spark (no pun intended) of imagination and energy you need.
The late nights when you work on improving your writing will be especially serene, since cats will often stay up with you or simply purr happily in your presence, which is all the comfort most writers need in their life. The effects a cat can have on a writing process can be seen in Muriel’s A Far Cry from Kensington, where she wrote the character of Mrs. Hawkins inspired by her own feline companion.
William Faulkner: “Read to write.”
Having an abundance of vocabulary, references and reading experience in general is an important part of being a novelist yourself. The popular writer William Faulkner had a lot to say about reading, mainly because he rarely chose what he read. He liked to read everything from bad popular magazines to classical works of writing and has never looked at either one with disgust or admiration.
Being objective about what you read and analyzing the formatting patterns can help you out tremendously if you are only starting your first novel. Faulkner and his contemporaries have risen to glory not because of their refined taste in literature but because of the open-minded nature of living and breathing as writers. Be open to new ideas and reading materials as they can truly transform your work into something spectacular.
Hilary Mantel: “A little arrogance can go a long way.”
Believing in your own ideas is the most important trait of a novelist. If you can convince yourself that the pitch you came up with makes sense, no publisher will be able to turn you down based on poor excuses. While “arrogance” might be a strong word, self-confidence and personal motivation are everything that stands between you and a blank piece of paper.
Following the advice of Hilary Mantel is as easy as it is difficult – force yourself to do something new and unknown every day. Write a draft based on something you read in the newspaper, send a proposition to three new publishers each week or simply write for several hours each day on a strict schedule. Being sure of your abilities to deliver a good written piece can go a long way in making sure your career starts on the right track.
What most modern authors don’t realize is that classics didn’t become popular overnight. Most famous authors earned their fame posthumously, but that doesn’t mean that fame requires death and literary revival. Take every bit of advice of your contemporaries that can help you get started on your way without losing momentum.
Some advice will work better than other depending on your personal habits and preferences. Do what you can to make the most of the experience of your past examples and strive to create written pieces that would make them proud.