It’s easy to write a novel. Just ask anyone who hasn’t written one. They’ll tell you when they retire, they’ll write one and published it. They say this with such ease you’d think it was as simple as rising in the morning and dressing. After all, everyone who can put a few words on paper can write, so they’d be able to string together a few thousand words and write a novel. No problem.
And it isn’t a problem until they sit down to begin that first chapter.
Of course, there’s no deadline to complete a novel, so there’s no pressure. Other writers claim it takes years to create that perfect story, so there’s no rush. Anyway, this is something planned for the future, after you retire, after the kids grow up or after some big event that marks the start of that first chapter.
You have the story mapped out in your brain. You know the names of a few characters, where it’ll take place and what’s going to happen. You just need to get it down on paper. Anyone can do that. Just ask anyone who hasn’t written a novel.
In reality, those who’ve tried and/or were successful in completing the first draft to a novel know how difficult it is to plant your bottom in a chair and sit there until the first chapter is completed, and then return later to write another chapter and then another. After thousands of words have been spun together to weave a plot, create realistic characters and fabricate a believable setting, the first draft is complete. But only the first draft.
Weeks if not months will be spent sculpting the final draft, making it fit for others to read. Then and only then can you proclaim you’ve written your first novel. Regardless if it is published or not, you have stepped onto a higher writing platform. You’ve joined a select few – yes, select few – who’ve endured to complete their first novel.
Today, I’d like to welcome Sheila McDougall onto that I’ve written a novel platform. After years of procrastinating, Sheila dedicated the past three years to completing her first novel. Congratulations, Sheila!
I met Sheila around this time of year in 1999. We were both members of the East Hants Garden Club. She was on one side of a table while I was on the other. Between us was a mound of evergreen. We were making Christmas wreaths and over the boughs, she asked me about writing.
Until that time, I hadn’t met a real writer. Sheila was easy to speak with and knew how to keep the conversation flowing. I was a greenhorn, being home for three years with two small children and cut off from society. In fact the reason I had joined the garden club was because I had realised my social skills were fading, and I had begun to feel intimidated by meeting new people and talking to adults. Another few years of isolation and I’d have become a hermit.
From that moment on, Sheila and I talked about writing a lot. We organized a writing workshop and invited Sandra Phinney to host it. It’s still the best workshop I’ve ever attended. From there, we began a writer’s group. When that folded after a few years, we (along with another writer, Cheryl O’Neil) began meeting for writer dinners. In between meetings, we exchanged emails, sometimes on a daily basis.
Through it all, Sheila had expressed many times that she wanted to write a novel. And now she has. You can learn more about Sheila, her writing history and read (for free) her novel City of Light and Shadow on her new blog, Winnowing Words. She’ll be the first to tell you she’s no Ernest Buckler (one of her favourite authors), and I’ll be the first to say, “I’m glad she’s not.” I couldn’t have read her book if it had been as boring as The Mountain and the Valley.