One of the biggest turn-offs for writing novels, if not the biggest, in my opinion, is all of the setup. That part of the novel filled to the brim with exposition, precise details, sometimes a timeline of events. Naturally, this can be something spread out rather than a giant wall of text (GWT). Nevertheless, it’s a step in the process that cannot be avoided. When I first started writing in high school, I never even got past that step because creating a completely new and unique world is hard.
J. K. Rowling. George R. R. Martin. J. R. R. Tolkien. George Lucas. Each have made some incredibly success fictional worlds and I’m just floored when I think of how much time and effort it must’ve taken. When I first attempted this, I had about a year’s worth of notes and by the end of that year, I wasn’t satisfied enough to start actually writing it and scrapped the whole idea.
I’ve since developed a few techniques to overcome this daunting task, if only slightly. So, in college, I was taught about magical realism, a genre that focuses on a realistic view of reality but also encompasses fantastical elements, a political critique, and some other stuff.
Quick side note: Please don’t be the person who thinks Wikipedia is entirely unreliable because it’s user-based content. For the most part, it won’t lead you astray, and yes, all the extra information on magical realism is on Wikipeda.
Anyway, I realized that the world building is pretty much already taken care of in magical realism because it’s set in the real world. Not only did it cut the amount of work I’d have to do in half, it’s really just a good point in current events for a political critique. Not to say that I picked the genre specifically because I felt it’d be a little easier on me, that’s just how the idea sort of formed, and it also just happens to be a little more lax in that regard.
But what I really wanted to say is that I’m a pretty big fan of the en media res tactic of story telling, in which the reader sort of discovers more about the world as the narrative progressed. Ironically enough, I’m doing that in addition to magical realism. It gives me the opportunity to take breaks in between setup and actually writing, which is pretty much the only way that I can stay invested.
Up until I started this novel, I had only written short stories. From firsthand experience, there’s a pretty big leap from getting your feet wet to the full plunge. And I don’t know how to swim. I mean that literally, but really, I studied creative writing throughout college and they don’t really teach you or prep you for writing an entire novel. In all of the peer reviewing classes and such, there’s simply just not enough time for it.
Not that I can really even conceive a proper way to teach someone how to write a novel. But I was never actually prepared to make the leap. And now that I’ve made strides, I can say 100 percent that it is incredibly difficult. Just the creative and clever, thought-provoking prose is relatively easy compared to crafting your own world and immersing the reader in it. I thought I was overly cautious of how well my prose was working in short stories, but I’ve got some serious anxiety making sure the novel is coming along nicely. And have the time I get so paranoid that I take long breaks just to make sure my idea are carefully developed.
I guess where I’m going with this is that there’s a crazy amount of preparation that goes into writing a novel, not the least of which is constructing a whole new environment that is enthralling, inviting, immersive, and a billion other adjectives, all of which make it successful. So even if I don’t particularly like a novel I’ve read, I can’t deny that I envy the author’s ability and commitment.