Wouldn't You Like to Write a Novel Too?

“I’ve been thinking about writing a novel. But I just haven’t found the time.”

How many times have writers of all ages, ability, and publishing status heard these words or something like them*? This is probably the most irritating statement you could ever make in a writer’s presence. (At least, I can’t think of a worse one. Even a bad review is better than that.)

I am a (mostly) unpublished writer. And even I have heard this.You might as well just punch me right in the gut. It would have the same effect.

You see, writing a novel is a job. It’s a skill. It’s something that writers work very, very hard for. It’s not something one can complete in a day, or a week, or even a month**. In order to write well, one must do even more than that – a writer must complete one or two or seven or more novels before they come close to being publishing ready.

Most people believe writing is easy. And in every day life, it mostly is. Anyone can scratch out a note, make a list, or dash off an email. That lulls most ordinary people into the perception that writing a novel would be easy. It’s just a long letter, right?

Then again, I can run, but that doesn’t convince me that I could be a professional athlete. I can do a bit of 3D animation, but I wouldn’t just decide one day that I was going to go work for Pixar, either. I can tell you the symptoms of the common cold but that doesn’t automatically give me the knowledge and dedication that it takes to become a doctor. Why in the world do people remain convinced that absolutely anyone could write a novel and get it published with a wave of their hand – “if [they] only had the time”, of course?

“I could make up a great story like that, man!” Said with a snap of the fingers.And maybe you could. Far be it from me to try to crush anyone’s dreams. In fact, the first couple of times I heard this presumptuous statement, I tried to be encouraging and excited for the speaker. I pointed them toward NaNoWriMo and bestowed heartening words that I thought might help them toward their professed big dream.

After dealing with two or three of these people, though, I realized something. These people have no intentions of ever sitting down to write. They have absolutely no concept of the amount of work it takes to actually do the thing that they’re talking about. Nowadays, I just give those people a pained smile and change the subject.

It’s the equivalent of someone who knows the basics of folding a paper airplane deciding they are going to build a Boeing jet in their back yard. Yeah, they might be able to do it one day. But right now, they have no idea of the hard work, the dedication, the blood-sweat-and-tears, the money, the long hours, the putting-off-of-doing-the-dishes, the self-doubt, the despair, the thrill, the joy, the heartache, and the team of devoted professionals it takes to construct a whole new world one tiny wheel-sprocket-nut-bolt verb-adjective-noun-metaphor at a time and then to release the whole beautiful thing into the wild.

I’m not saying don’t do it. In fact, if that’s your dream, then you shouldn’t let me or anyone stop you. But please, for the sake of my sanity, don’t dismiss it as a simple, easy thing to do. It’s not.

*Rant inspired by the wise, hilarious, and read-worthy Patrick Rothfuss.

**Yes, I do know about NaNoWriMo. I love it. I have participated every year since 2004. This DOES NOT mean that your NaNovel is ready to go out on submission to agents or editors on December 1st.