Novels are not small things, and so writing one is not a little challenge. It is an all-encompassing project that will take over your life and cause you to question everything, but it will also fill you with passion and make you feel more alive than you have ever done before.
Many writers attempt novels, though not all finish them. Getting to the end of a full draft and writing ‘The End’ is in itself a massive achievement and one not to be slighted, but that is not the end of writing a novel by any stretch of the imagination. It is, if anything, the halfway mark. Reaching that peak, however, is one of the most difficult trials a writer can attempt.
A trend I have noticed amongst writers is the tendency to conceive or even start a novel, and then stall. Sometimes, only notes or research is in place, and the first sentence has not even been written. On other occasions, the writer is part-way through but paused because a scene didn’t quite work properly, or a character just wouldn’t do what they were supposed to, or simply because things got in the way and a period of time passed where the writer didn’t look at their work. They then struggle to get started again.
Whilst the cause of the initial break is often clear, the reason for not engaging with the writing is much harder to identify, and often unrealised. With smaller pieces—like short stories, poems, or articles—the writer may move on, but larger works bring a sense of guilt. The act of not writing becomes a source of strife and the abyss between what is in the writer’s mind and what is on the page grows substantially.
This is where writers find themselves in limbo; not because they cannot write, but because they cannot commit to the writing. A novel is more than a few characters or a basic setting: it is a world full of people and places and changes and emotions and life. It takes the entirety of a writer’s mental capacity to process and develop. It requires absolute attention and focus. It needs all of them.
An unfinished novel sitting in the back of the mind is like a reservoir held behind a dam, and to work on it means opening those floodgates. A writer who has locked it away is possessed with a fear of it flooding their mind and taking their attention away from all other aspects of their life. It will consume them until it is done, and that is too high a risk to commit to without substantial time in place away from other distractions.
What, then, is a writer to do? Keep it locked away and hope one day such a time will arrive where responsibilities cease and the dam can be opened?
A writer is someone who writes. Thinking about a novel is not writing it, and although it is imperative to mentally explore world and characters before writing about them, it should not be the only activity undertaken. To move from thinker to writer is to put those fears aside, ignore the worry of a novel taking over their life, and embrace this new universe they are building.
In this Crafting Novels masterclass I will be addressing the twelve parts of crafting a novel, as I see them. These begin with an initial concept and end with a finished product ready to be marketed to potential buyers, whether agents and publishers or readers through a self-publishing platform. This is not a simple twelve-step sequence or a magic formula, however. This is a masterclass in all aspects of writing a novel, which to my mind breaks down into twelve individual lessons. Each lesson will contain theories, exercises, and assignments, but also the philosophy and psychology of crafting a novel.
A writer has a role, a responsibility, and a duty: to craft words into something wonderful. It is art through grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. It is beautiful and magical. Yet it must be tangible; it must exist. Putting it off does not bring words to life, it sentences them to imprisonment. They wait, stoic, for their eventual release.
Your experience as a writer is unique, and I hope so too will be your experience of this masterclass. I have written it to help you embrace writing your own novel, and to support you through the process. You will also need a pen, a notepad, and a willingness to question yourself. Be prepared to challenge your own way of thinking.
It’s time to open the dam.
Hanchett Hanson M. (2015). The Ideology of Creativity and Challenges of Participation. Europe’s journal of psychology, 11(3), 369–378. https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v11i3.1032
Clay Drinko, Killing Creative Mortification, Psychology Today, 1 November 2019
Luft, C.D.B., Zioga, I., Banissy, M.J. et al. Relaxing learned constraints through cathodal tDCS on the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Sci Rep 7, 2916 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-03022-2
David Eagleman, Everyone’s View of the World is Different, Spiral, Rubin Museum of Art