Writing a Novel

“There are three rules for writing a novel.
Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
 W. Somerset Maugham

Like many others I have always wanted to write a novel.  I have written and had published several short fiction pieces but not a novel.

I used to say that when the time was right; when I no longer went to the office every day; when I had the perfect place blah blah blah.  Well I did have all these things together at one time.

When he was about 56 my late husband decided to retire.  We bought a fabulous property in a small bay in the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island here in New Zealand.  The Sounds are rather like fjords; they are  network of sea-drowned valleys (or rias) created by a combination of land subsidence and rising sea levels.

Willow Bay

Willow Bay

So, we bought our little bit of paradise and settled in.  Paradise was short-lived though as my husband became very ill and spent a long time in the local hospital.  Local being used here in a general manner – it was 60 kms away from us much of it on an unsealed road.  You can read more of this if you are interested in an earlier post – Paradise, Phones and Phrustration.

Anyway, once he came out of hospital (and even before then) the time was right;I no longer worked; I had the perfect spot (the study looked out down the Sound) so all was in place.  But where was my muse?  I had always had several plots running around my brain but now there were none.  How could that be one might ask.  Well my answer is that I think I was too busy just rejoicing in the fact that he had recovered, relaxing and thinking there was always another day, another time to write the novel.  Saying today we will just explore our new surroundings, take out the boat or go for a drive.  And of course, after Robert was so very ill, doing things together became more important and the Great New Zealand Novel never got written (not by me at any rate).

New Novelist cover

This was the first version. Version 3 is now available

After he died, once again I thought about my novel.  I went as far as to buy software to help me to write it.  Its preamble stated “Let’s face it – writing a book takes time. LOTS of it. Until now, aspiring writers and novelists faced – and let’s be honest – a gut-wrenching, slow and grueling writing process.” and it claimed to break ” down the process of writing into manageable chunks, to help experienced and novice writers complete a novel.”  All well and good.  But in all honesty, this only confused me more.  I went back to the old way,  notebooks, cards and the computer while the  software in its box languishes on the shelf.   But still the novel eludes me.  I think that I shall have to be content with writing my blogs and the occasional piece for a magazine.

But watch this space – I may surprise us all yet.

“Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.”
Olin Miller

It’s a good job I am not reliant on writing my novel.  If I were I would probably starve.


27 responses to “Writing a Novel

  1. Oh Judith – how I sympathise – empathise – with you! An honest friend once said to me: “If you were going to do it, you’d have done it by now!” But I still live in hope!


    • But Cat was that friend being honest? We often tell ourselves that we can’t do something. Maybe we should all be telling ourselves we can. So let’s both get down to it and as Nike says – Just Do It. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.


  2. Judith you have just described perfectly one of the issues I am struggling with right now. I always said when time and place are right..and more than a year ago that happened…so I struggle with trying to explain why it isn’t happening…last evening I ven uttered the words, ‘you are not a writer’ to myself….although it was an experimental utter. I wondered if saying it out loud would confirm the truth or set a challenge. Instead I still …….well you know. Thanks for the perfect post!


    • Oh no Chris. In my self confidence courses I tell people never to say things like that – your subconscious will take it as true. So tell yourself I am a writer and see what happens then. Thanks for the comment 🙂


  3. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    LOVE your quotes!! I’m like you – a bit of short story here, & there. But my whole blog at present is me writing a FIRST DRAFT of my novel because I too have always wanted to get one done. But the job is so HUGE so I thought I’ll start a blog and just do chapters and put them out there and check out the feedback, and the feedback is encouraging me to keep going. So maybe you could try that too, because you do actually write more often than when trying to accomplish “a novel” all alone in the quiet of your room.

    Good luck! 🙂

    http://www.VodkaWasMyMuse.wordpress.com (video diary toward sobriety) / http://www.WordsFallFromMyEyes.wordpress.com (first draft of a novel I’m writing)


  4. I love the opening quote!

    Life does happen, and it can be the perfect excuse to procrastinate and not do “a really big thing.” (Thinking of writing a novel is so much more intimidating than a short story or blog post.)

    I did write one novel (it hasn’t gone anywhere) and I started character development on the second one. Your post reminds me that nothing will get done unless I make it happen. It’s just that between homework helping, Cub Scouts, sports practices and games….and well, you get the idea.

    Good luck getting your novel done. You can always start today 🙂


  5. Writing a book takes time and there is so much living to do…I just can’t seem to withdraw long enough to dedicate myself to the craft…so I know where you’re coming from…


    • Well now that I am “retired” there should be time but alas I have so many things I want to do and see that I don’t seem to get around to it. …


  6. It is hard work, I can attest to that. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s one of the most rewarding – if that makes any sense.

    Good luck on your journey. Open your Word document and begin! 🙂


  7. ordinarygood

    Carpe diem Judith. Good luck with the novel…..you can do it.


  8. When the time is right, you will do it! Many novelists have been published well into their sixties or seventies for the first time. Perhaps you will compile your fabulous blogs into a book!


    • Thanks Darlene – more blatant self promotion, I wrote a blog about a man who published his book when he was 83 years old. So I guess there is still time for me. Thanks for your comment about my blog. I really appreciate it. 🙂


  9. I love that first quote. Our writers group leader says just sit down and write a little every day. Writing begets writing. 🙂


  10. wow. made me think about the Great Filipino Novel that I thought I was meant to write. thanks for sharing Judith!


  11. We make room for OUR priorities. Maybe writing a novel isn’t that much of a priority for you . . . or me.

    I’ve started several and almost completed two . . . then stalled. I don’t believe that my life would improve by being a published novelist (or even an unpublished novelist). Other fish to fry at the moment.

    Enjoy this moment . . . however you choose to spend it! 😀


  12. What a great quote by Somerset Maugham. In the meantime, you are writing and we are all being blessed by that. The day may yet come, just keep writing and who knows?


  13. Pingback: HOW TO WRITE GOOD | World (and Lunar) Domination

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