"Oh, I've had this idea for a novel, but..."
This is one of the phrases I hear regularly when people find out I'm an author. The operative word is "but."
There's a common misconception that everyone has at least one novel in them. I disagree. Anyone can write a novel but whether that novel is going to be worth reading... that is another story.
Some people are seized by an idea but they don't act on it. I've an acquaintance who taps her noggin and tells me, "It's all up here."
I smile and nod, while thinking, "Yeah right, you gotta show, don't tell."
When I was about 12 or 13 I knew I'd get 'round to writing a novel one day. I stopped myself from doing so because I didn't have a story. A lot of people start writing because they've got "cool" characters. They reckon the story "will happen" as they start writing. Although this method may work for some, more often than not, it's a dismal failure, with a writer's efforts fizzling out after one or two chapters.
Trust me. I've been there.
So, how do I do it? I've written five complete novels, two of which have been sold to a US-based press. One (the second) I shoved under my bed because I know it's just... well... Let's just say it ain't gonna happen 'cos the plot was pure wangst. One is currently sitting with my agent and I completed the first draft of the last yesterday. This is within the space of three years.
This is entirely possible because I know where the story is going to end before I start writing it. I plan. I outline and I also allow leeway for any incidental story arcs that take place while I write. Then, I get my posterior on a chair (or in my case, a daily two-hour commute by train to the centre of Cape Town) and I write. On a good day I put away between 1 000 to 2 000 words.
Next month is November. For those of you in the know, it's NaNoWriMo. I didn't think about it, didn't even consider the potential... But you see... I have this story... And I know I can do it...
And even if I don't finish, it's going to be one helluva ride. So, I guess what I'm trying to say with this is that you should stop talking about writing that great (insert nationality) novel and get cracking. Lay down those words. Don't overanalyse what you're doing. Just get those ideas down. Find a story that speaks to you and bring it to life. If you look hard enough you'll see you've got more than one hiding in there.
C'mon, I double dare you!