When do I get to be a writer?

There’s something either audacious or ridiculous about the claim to have a novel in your future, and I think there’s probably a very thin line between the two. If you want to be taken very seriously (but not really) at a cocktail party, may I suggest opening your elevator speech with, “I’m mostly just working on my novel.”

I’m telling the world I’m writing a novel because I want to finish it, and I’m hoping to be audacious and not ridiculous. It’s hard. As a threshold matter, you have to type between 80,000 and 100,000 words. That’s a lot of words. Even more difficult, these words have to tell a story of some sort, which is harder than it sounds. Or maybe it also sounds really hard. It does to me. And then you should think about getting all of the proper elements in the proper order with the proper pacing. It’s not a small undertaking, especially if you need to do things like have functional relationships and work a full time job to earn money for food.

I’m still in the planning stages of my first novel. I’m working through the second draft of my outline. I’m actually starting to feel sort of smug about that. Outlining is hard. It’s telling the whole story with just a few words, but not all of them. The telling of the story is the important part, I think. Which words you choose to use to do the ultimate telling is a secondary concern. Once you have the story told, filling in the details feels doable. Of course, I have no way of knowing this for sure.

Theoretically, I know that every successful author started with a first book. And mostly what distinguishes them from the infinite hoards of “aspiring” authors is execution. They finished the book and put it out for the judgment of the world. Maybe Joanne Rowling went to a high school reunion and was like, “I’m writing a novel,” and the mean popular girl was like, “oh, isn’t that nice?” I like to imagine that being true.

So, I’m mostly just working on my novel. If you think that sounds ridiculous, you’re probably not alone.

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