Sunday, March 15, 2009

This Year You Write Your Novel--Walter Mosley

If you've been one of the many NaNoWriMo participants, or if you haven't because you worried you wouldn't get it done, I highly recommend Walter Mosley's This Year You Write Your Novel. This little gem of a book is full of advice about getting those early drafts written and starting to shape them.

Two years into revision, I don't need help getting started, and the basic elements of fiction have been covered more thoroughly in other writing craft books. What I really need is for Mosley to write the next installment: This Year You Shut Up About Everyone Else's Novel and Finish Revising Your Own.

Even so, I marked several passages to reread. If I read it enough times, I may even find a way to spend the hour and a half Mosley recommends working on the novel, every single day. Even if all you do is reread what you wrote the day before, Mosley says, you must stick to the hour and a half each and every day.
The process of writing a novel is like taking a journey by boat. You have to continually set yourself on course. If you get distracted or allow yourself to drift, you will never make it to the destination. It's not like highly defined train tracks or a highway; this is a path that you are creating, discovering. The journey is your narrative. Keep to it and there will be a tale told.
The most helpful bit for me, was Mosley's response to the question, When am I finished rewriting? Mosley's answer: Never. Okay, then! Never mind.

Seriously, though. How do you know when to stop?
You find yourself reading through the book for the twenty-fifth time, and as you see problems, you try to fix them, but the attempt only makes things worse. . . . Then you know you're finished. Congratulations. You have a novel. This one is good. The next one will be better.
With nearly thirty published books and several awards under his belt, Mosley clearly has a sense for this stuff. It's worth listening to him. My novel's still in that in-between stage, though, so if you could get cracking on that second installment, Mr. Mosley, I'd be much obliged.


  1. I am SOOO thrilled for you! Really, I want to read it so hurry up? no, no, I'm sorry, no pressure. Just delight in knowing we will see it soon and you will share when that is.

    I always say I want to write the NGAN but I have zero story ideas. I'm just trying to justify my not working a 'real' job.

  2. Hehe. I want to read that second book you suggests he write too. Though I guess I do need to read the first one first since my novel is still in the outline phase.

  3. Care, I've read some published novels that seemed to have zero story ideas...

    Lenore, you should definitely read this book, then! It'll probably inspire you to move past the outline.

  4. Maybe this will be one writing book that I will get some real advice from. They are hard to come by! Thanks for the recommendation.