The other thing you need to know.
Aside from coffee and a story burning in your gut like wasabi, there are many things you need to know to write a good novel. I’m not going to post about any of them today. Today is about some arithmetic.
Today’s number is 2. Because for a real writer, there are only 2 things:
And I mean everything else. Hundreds of everything elses. I’m sure your list is just as long as mine and I’m not going to share a cute example because I want to emphasize that this is an important, even existential choice.
Until you start to think and feel this way, you will not succeed. Why not? Because the things we believe will carry us forward as novelists will absolutely fail us. Ambition will fail us, ego will fail us, avarice will fail us, the promises we’ve made, the deadlines we’ve committed to, our willpower, our physical stamina, our hard drives… the only thing that will see you to the end is your story, and your characters.
That’s it. Two things. To be a novelist is to be in parallel worlds, your earthly world, and the world of your story. You are living in two worlds, but the amount of time you have must be shared between them. Worse, the world you must spend a lot of time in is imaginary. Your real world will suffer. You will have to give up many things, and that is an art, too. Cut the cable, cut down the socializing, cut down the gym, cut down watching sports and reading the news. You have to steal minutes everywhere you can, preferably from yourself, without hurting your family.
Certainly every writer dreams of an Airstream trailer on the beach up in Big Sur, or a cabin in the mountains. But the truth is that those things don’t matter. It is said that experienced soldiers can sleep in any circumstances, even under fire. A writer, lost in their story, is like that.
If it is cold in your story you will put on a sweater.
The single thing that struck us after meeting readers and fans at signings etc., when our first two books came out, was how many people want to write novels. It is an appendix that has to come out, a sin that needs committing.
The long division I am speaking of, writing, and then everything else, is your first step.