How to Write a Novel (Part I)

-Be frightened underclassman.

-Decide to write novel so that will be person worth speaking to at parties and also to change world and self.

-Excitedly produce short prologue out of thin air.

-Realize have, as usual, given main characters awful names.

-Keep names out of cussedness.

-Hope am good enough writer to become famous anyway.

-Settle in gleefully for months of planning.

-Begin with one outline-ish word document.

-Assign pretentious title from Hopkins.

-Spend summer filling awkward orange notebook with disconnected paragraphs, most written by Tolkien, not self.

-Use special pen.

-Never mention to anyone.

-Make lists of books for character (not self) to read.

-Allow word document to spawn eighteen runty chapter babies.

-Eat M&M’s.

-Eventually mention to one friend, then two, then three.

-Refer to as “my story.”

-Become overwhelmed when friends speak confidently of future B&N author cardboard cutouts.

-Feel weird.

-Search internet for pictures which look like characters.

-Discover no one looks like characters.

-Wonder if characters are too ugly or too pretty or just too fictional.

-Encouraged by crazies of NaNoWriMo, write twenty actual pages in one year.

-Hide away in princess lounge to do so, usually wearing pajama pants and fuzzy blanket as cape.

-Pretend am doing something respectable and normal like biology.

-Feel covert and important.

-Watch Mad Men to inspire self.

-Realize have given self five seventeen year old boys to write about.

-Question own decision making skills.

-Tell more people.

-Continue to shyly use word “story.”

-Have brilliant idea to do independent study!

-Realize will have to begin saying word “novel” for clarity.

-Use “novel” in conversation, usually whispering and doing awkward side-eye to gage reaction.

-Promise to put new friends in as characters “just crossing the street or something.”

-Regret decision.

-Write syllabus for following semester, brazenly assigning self one hundred whole pages.

-Become horrified by others’ unconditional confidence in abilities.

-Decide everyone is possibly mentally deficient (including self, for trying.)

-While home for summer, read Thomas Wolfe for inspiration.

-Hate Thomas Wolfe.

-Continue to read Thomas Wolfe.

-Write another actual chapter.

-Regret hundred-page decision.

-Consider sending pathetic email to independent study professor.

-Give chapters to mother.


-Re-read Mennyms books and weep.

-Receive chapters back from mother, covered in red and “don’t be discouraged.”

-Take twelve deep breaths.

-Revise some.

-In first independent study meeting, when professor cheerfully asks about current progress, begin crying.

-Realize am safe from professor ever asking same question again.

-Continue to be terrified.

-Discover deadlines excellent for forcing courage.

-Create whole bookmarks folder of encouragement websites for writing.

-Become surprised by usefulness of internet.

-Put one word after another.

-Become suspicious when professor unequivocally likes new chapters.

-Wonder nervously if professor actually knows about novels.

-Begin to adjust to own use of word “novel.”

-Struggle, however, to adjust to friends’ use of word “book.”

-Become surprised by continual question, “What’s it about, or can I know?”

-Wonder if world, including own English professor’s wife, believe am hording magical personal secrets.

-Become embarrassed by own inability to summarize plot.

-Wish plot was full of magical personal secrets.

-Tell sassy close friend entire plot in detail.

-Allow friend to give character fatal illness.

-Refuse to allow friend to change first name of main protagonist.

-Become less afraid.

-Turn in self-assigned pages approximately 30 hours late on regular basis.

-Decide sleep is good reward for writing.

-Discover if keep self up writing too long, head will refuse to stop writing, even in bed.

-Decide writing will have to be its own reward.

-Send uncomfortable chapter to friend to avoid asking questions of delightfully awkward professor.

-Become pleased with own cleverness.

-Begin writing acknowledgements page.

-Go, go, go.

-Insert unplanned chapter in act of great daring.

-Decide to use as senior honor’s project so will never have to let go of baby.

-Become sloppy.

-Consolidate chapters into document called “A Draft for Word Count and Ego.”

-Long for revision.

-Dream about revision.

-Wish could time travel to next semester when am revising.

-Become alarmed by professor’s comments about narrative point of view.

-Wonder if POV is even important.

-Wonder what POV even is.

-Become reckless.

-Send apologetic late night emails to professor for incoherence of narrative.

-Drink Earl Grey.

-Cry nonsensically loud tears of joy.

-Nearly finish draft before bed.

-Wake up in elation.

-Actually finish draft!

-Post well-planned facebook status.

-Perform deeply private happy dance.

-Raise ire of entire TLC by printing 144 pages immediately before classtime.

-Use massive stapler.

-Carry around printed draft like newborn child.

-Become terrified by others’ eagerness to hold it.

-Email draft to family. (Change “Ego” to “Encouragement.”)

-Sit in bath planning eradication and merging of certain minor characters.

-Refuse to type or write single word in interest of “letting story breathe.”

-Read portions of draft aloud to self while roommate is away.

-Stab maliciously at embarrassing portions with finger.

-Send impossibly patient independent study professor messy thank you note.

-Consider studying for finals.

-Consider beginning new project.

-Continue instead to mentally smother current project with affection and abuse.


2 thoughts on “How to Write a Novel (Part I)

  1. Dear Alice,
    Very funny! You might want to edit it down a bit, to make it sharper. By “gage” you mean gauge. No apostrophe in “Senior Honors Project.”

  2. Pingback: Writing Myself In | Alice with Paper

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