#2: So You Want to Write a Novel? A Warning for the Faint of Heart…

So, you want to write a novel. Wonderful! Have you decided what genre you want to write in? What genre do you like to read? You might as well write that; after all, you’re already familiar with it.

When I told my friends and acquaintances that I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, I got two responses. The first response, which I expected, involved questions about the story itself: “What’s it about? When does it take place? What happens?”

The second response took me by surprise: “Really? I wrote/am writing a book, too!” 

The next logical step was to read each other’s manuscripts. That was seriously scary! It was immediately clear to me that we all needed to learn more about current fiction-writing guidelines. 

And let me be very clear about this: publishing guidelines change all the time. 

What sold just 5 years ago might not sell now. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander which was published in 1991 weighs in at 627 pages (160,000 words-ish). In 2008 I sat down with an editor from Dorchester whose first question was, “How many words? I won’t look at anything over 90,000.” And she meant it. She never even asked what my book was about. Just told me to make it shorter. Ouch.

I took a deep breath, forced a smile, and walked away. Either I was going to do this or quit. One thing was clear: trying to get published is NOT the place to build self-esteem! 

So I wrapped my ego in a blanket, gave it a huge chunk of chocolate, and locked it in a cupboard. It can’t come out or it will be battered and beaten to death. This process is brutal; I can’t emphasize that enough. You’ll bare your soul through the written word and multiple people will tell you everything you did wrong. In excruciating detail. 


But critique, while unpleasant, is good for us – like spinach or liver. Rejection should make us more determined. Janet Evanovich was rejected for ten years before she was published! Now she travels with an entourage. 

Can you take it? This is a serious question, one you need to answer before you go on. Because you will not be the exception. There are no exceptions. 

Think about it. 

I’ll see you next time.

6 Responses to “#2: So You Want to Write a Novel? A Warning for the Faint of Heart…”

  1. 1 Vicki Bendau 12/03/2009 at 1:00 PM

    Kris – I’m so excited you’ve started a blog! And an expert you certainly are in this area! Good luck and best wishes on your writing journey. Vicki

  2. 2 kristualla 12/03/2009 at 2:31 PM

    Thanks for your support! You’re amazing!
    Kris 🙂

  3. 3 Pat McDermott 12/03/2009 at 6:26 PM

    Ah, the nostalgia. Great post, Kris. Good luck with the blog!

  4. 4 marymccall 12/04/2009 at 4:48 AM

    Thanks, Kris. We all need the reminders sometimes. I lost my “Big chance” when a drunk driver hit me on the way to mail in a contract to Harper Collins. After several years of rehab, I’m back at it. Though I was RWA’s first PRO member and Coordinator, I feel like a newbie all over again. Fortunately, typing is really good therapy for fine motor movement!
    Hang in there.

  5. 6 Candace 12/04/2009 at 6:46 PM

    Wow! May I say how impressed I am. But the thing I like the most about your wonderful, amazing self is…………you used quilt blocks on your blog!!!! I knew you were my friend for a reason! You totally rock!

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