What stopped me until now?
Short stories or blog posts are a good way to practice writing, a good way to develop a style and a good way to get some visibility and feedback. But they generally don’t require any planning or commitment, any intricate structuring or a consistency of style for more than a few pages. Every new story or post can be a new experiment, a new idea or approach, a new character or persona. Starting a project like a book means sticking with a character, a style and a narrator for a couple hundred pages and that idea scares me. Hell, I have trouble sticking to a language for more than a few blog posts. I’m worried that I am not consistent enough in what I do, that I lose interest, that I change my mind too often.
Character creation and dialogue are two vital aspects of writing a novel. Both aspects are intertwined in fact. Through the years I found that the things I’ve written that I like most myself, generally don’t thrive on the quality of the dialogue or the character creation. In my earlier work I generally only like a particularly fun way I phrase something. In my later work I find that I do a better job of creating an arc or a structure that brings a smile to your face at the end. Rarely though have I taken the time to really work out a character or taken the time to find the right balance between explaining a character and making the character come alive through dialogue. I am still afraid that I have much to learn in that respect.
What they say is to write about what you know… but what I find is that every time I have an idea for a story it consists of things I don’t know much about. It’s situated in a country I am not familiar with, it deals with characters that I have a hard time empathizing with or is occurring in a culture I have trouble understanding. I get too focused on researching those things I don’t know enough about and I don’t get any actual writing done. But what I know doesn’t keep my attention long enough.
Feedback and self-confidence are very important aspects when trying to complete a longer project. I like the fact that blogging offers the potential for immediate feedback. Blogging is very different from writing a novel because when you blog, you don’t reread something a thousand times to check the pacing, the rhythm and the plausibility. You write it, you post it and you wait for feedback. You get it out there quick and if it sucks, you cover it up with the next post and move on. Writing a novel is different because you can’t publish anything until the whole thing is done. You can’t leak bits and pieces to get some feedback. You have to wait and get all of it done. I’ve tried writing and publishing a short story bit by bit before and it doesn’t work. You can’t publish the first part until you’ve finished the whole thing and are absolutely sure that nothing needs to be rewritten afterwards. Rewriting something is so important when you’re working on a novel. The amount of content that you need to check is so much larger that you can’t just put it out there and test the waters. If something seems to work early on you can’t be sure it will still work by the time you finish the novel and you’ve gotten to know your characters much better.
Perseverance is something else that you don’t necessarily need to write a short blog post. You might need it to maintain a blog in general but looking over my track-record over the years, it’s not something I would say I had with respect to writing in my spare time. It’s a different story altogether when I talk about writing my doctoral thesis since that’s something I did full-time. It’s something completely different when you can dedicate your entire energy to writing. But with this novel project, I will have to find the spare energy to write in the evenings after work or in the weekends. That’s something I don’t know I’m capable of doing for an extended period of time. I know myself well enough to know that this will be a difficult task. I’m lazy and my mind is weak in the evenings. I do so much prefer consuming rather than creating after a full day of work…