How to Write a Novel in Thirteen Plus Years
By Tom Zumwalt
As I wrestle with my inner critic and half a dozen other voices in my head (sure is crowded here—where did all of you come from?), approaching the close of my latest round of edits on my novel, I’ve decided to let my writer readers (reading writers?) in on my secrets. I know you’re all wondering, “How’d he finish it so fast?” and “Gosh, I wish I could write something that easily,” and “Why are there cat toys on his desk?”
Well, here it is, for the first time ever, Tom’s Guide to Writing a Novel in a Mere Ten Plus Years.”
Step One: Get idea. Mull it over a while. Forget to write it down.
Step Two: Get idea back. Write it down. Plink down a few ideas. Go play World of Warcraft.
Step Three: Write in journal, full of excitement about starting a novel. Don’t actually work on the novel, just talk about how excited you are in your journal. Play World of Warcraft.
Step Four: Tell friends and family and all the people at your coffee shops how excited you are to be working on a novel.
Step Five: Play World of Warcraft.
Step Six: Tell wife, husband, life partner, significant other, benign alien, or therapist about your novel.
Step Seven: Play World of Warcraft.
Step Eight: Weekend getaway to work on book. Write a few short, short scenes at the beginning, then perhaps something near the end, then a battle sequence because battle sequences are cool. Write non-sequentially because you have the attention span of a…oh, look, there goes the kitty…
Step Nine: Begin keeping backup files of your work. Make backups of your backups. Count this as writing time because it had to do with your novel.
Step Ten: Fired up, you’re ready to dive in. Unable to remember which copy is the correct copy, spend your writing-session time comparing, copying, and pasting from one file to another. Save on a floppy.
Step Eleven: Find correct copy, reword battle sequence because battle sequences are cool.
Step Twelve: Join critique group. Get positive feedback, but battle sequence needs work. Charged up, you go home, make another copy, save it on another floppy. Play World of Warcraft.
Step Thirteen: Work, work, work on the battle sequence. Reorganize files. Play World of Warcraft.
Step Fourteen: Return to critique group. Have them critique battle sequence again because battle sequences are cool.
Step Fifteen: Wife/husband/life partner, etc., says it’s time to write other parts. Try to write other parts. They all suck. Play World of Warcraft.
Step Sixteen: Try to write other parts again. Writing sucks. Swear you’ll never write another word again, ever.
Step Seventeen: Tell friends, family, etc., you’re never writing again.
Step Eighteen: Take a day, week, month, year, or several years off from writing, but the idea won’t leave you. Keep playing World of Warcraft.
Step Nineteen: Return to writing.
Step Nineteen, part A: Write blog posts instead of novel…oops…
Step Twenty: Repeat steps eight through eighteen numerous times until wife/husband/life partner says, “Just start writing.” “Oh. Okay,” you respond.
Step Twenty-One: Write, write, write as though your hands are on fire.
Step Twenty-Two: Look at the mess of files you have on multiple floppies, CDs, flash drives, emails, scattered papers. Swear you’ll give up writing.
Step Twenty-Three: Wife/husband/life partner dons the muse/editor/hero costume and wades in to all the mess you’ve created, as said wife/husband/life partner is capable of following a sequence of thoughts sequentially in—and here’s the amazing part, because you are not a sequential thinker—chronological fashion, and actually organizes your seemingly random randomness. “What?” you exclaim. “You mean this stuff actually connects together?”
Step Twenty-Four: Renewed, you charge in, astounded that, somehow, there just might be a story here.
Step Twenty-Five: Exhausted after your first dash in, swear you’re going to give up writing forever and ever. Play Angry Birds.
Step Twenty-Six: Wife/husband/life partner says, “Stop playing Angry Birds. Set a timer for half an hour and write. When the timer goes Ding! you can play Angry Birds.” “Oh. Okay,” you say.
Step Twenty-Seven: Using the timer/Angry Birds technique you, somehow, exhausted, neuron-fried, and limping, cross the finish line, walk upstairs and announce that the first draft is complete.
Step Twenty-Eight: Celebrate with a Guinness. A very large Guinness. Draft. Nothing canned or bottled. This is a proper celebration. Guinness is writer fuel.
And that, my friends, is how to complete a rough draft in a mere ten-plus years. Easy, right?
Y’know what, though? Once this first one’s out the door I’m gonna do it again. And maybe this next time I can shave it down to just five years….
Tom Zumwalt Bio:
Tom Zumwalt is a writer from Lexington, Kentucky. He lives a writerly life with his wife and two cats, and has completed his first novel, DragonFox. Tom writes a blog (http://writefromthegitgo.blogspot.com/), and has written articles for Kentucky Monthly magazine, Collecting Toys magazine, and movie reviews for the Georgetown News-Graphic. Also, he was a finalist in the Licking River Writers Writing Competition. He loves reading the Arthurian legends, anything by Poe, and comic books. He likes dragons as long as they don’t pursue him.