How to Write a Novel – Part 1 – Chutzpah!

How to Write a Novel – Part 1 – Chutzpah!

Yeah … first of all … get some guts … attitude!

Google defines chutzpah like so — “shameless audacity; impudence.”

Yes! Make no apologies about writing and being a writer!

This may seem like a strange first step to writing a novel, but I would argue the essential key. It is what will keep your courage burning when times get tough, when you get discouraged, and yes, that’s going to happen.

For whatever reason (and frankly I don’t care anymore about the why), the world of writing and authorship in general is filled with naysayers and road-block-artists. From your family and friends all the way up to agents and publishers, you will encounter many, many people who say they’re “just trying to help you” with criticism when they are actually just trying to tear you down. They’re real message: Just who do you think you are?

Your answer to that question is simple: I’m a writer! You don’t owe anyone any explanations or justification for that fact. If you put down a sentence once a year in your diary, or only limit your prose to the wall of the subway john, then you are a writer!

But since you’re reading this, I presume you have greater ambitions. You’re going to write a novel, it’s going to be awesome, and you’re not going to let anyone or anything hold you back.

(Well, let’s be realistic here. You’re not going to quit your day job, because while you could get extremely lucky and be the next J.K. Rowling, you still have to make money so you can eat and have a decent laptop. And by the way, get used to hearing that, i.e. “Don’t quit your day job.” But do get used to ignoring the jerks who say crap like that to you!)

And get ready for some pretty harsh words from your friends and family. “She’s writing a book,” some of them will say, sarcastic emphasis on the last word. After I finished my very first effort at a novel, long ago, before the internet was much more than email and a few pitiful government websites, I printed up my work and mailed it to a few close “friends” and family members. One of those people made it a point to call me up and tell me, while laughing, “You are not a writer.” That hurt, but I quickly let it go, realizing that such people are simply not worth knowing (unless they’re blood relatives).

But seriously, get ready for experiences like that. Respected teachers or mentors might give you a wry smirk. Your own mother may even laugh at you. Build up those burning coals of artistic desire and intent deep down to make it through those attacks. Remind yourself that there is NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT IN THIS WORLD THAT WRITING A NOVEL. (Okay, again, you’ve still got to eat and everything, so keep some perspective, too). If people ask you why you’re writing a novel, tell them that creating a work of art is the most important thing a person can do these days.

David Orr, author of Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World, is credited as saying:

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”


And this is what you’re doing by writing a novel. You’re doing something as important as saving the planet! (And even if, well, that’s a tad overstated, you’ve got to maintain that attitude to make it through to the end.)

Now, okay, while it’s critical to have chutzpah, it’s also very important not to alienate everyone. As you start upon this journey of writing a novel, you will also find that several of your friends and family members are going to get excited about what you’re doing and they will encourage you. These people are the ones who will read the first drafts and final drafts before sending a proof to the printer, and they and their friends are the ones who will be buying your novel in the end, even if you just end up printing up a 100 copies from Create Space. So don’t alienate everyone about how great you think you are by being an insufferable egomaniac. You’d be well served by reading “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie because you still need people to like you and inspire them to read your story.

You have to build up some pretty thick skin to make it through. When someone ruthlessly tries to discourage you with harsh words, simply do not engage them with conversation. “Oh?” is probably the most you might say, and then simply do not respond further, and do not try to explain yourself, unless people genuinely want to talk about your work. Keep your nose down, have confidence in what you’re doing, and let verbal attacks go un answered, letting them fall to the wayside, forgotten.

Okay, now that we’ve established that you are an undeniable bad ass son of a bitch writer, let’s move on to writing itself, in Part 2.

Austin Reams
Copyright (c) 2016 Austin Reams, all rights reserved.

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