The False Mystique of the Novel

What is it that makes everyone’s eyes get big when someone says, “I’m writing a novel.”

Try this. Tell someone that you are writing a story and see how they react. Now try it again, but this time insert the word ‘novel’ for story. Did you see how their eyebrows ascended? They were certainly impressed, weren’t they? Well, you, writer, are going to make something of yourself. A novel. Well, that is something, even if we all know what they are thinking on the inside:Ā “This person, write a novel? Yeah right.” (metaphoric rolling of the eyes) “A vain exercise, for sure.”

We tend to hear the word ‘novel’ and think of some elevated art form that the chosen few can master.

The truth of the matter is this, and this may come as quite the shock to many, that a novel is nothing more than a long story.

Revolutionary, I know.

But we tend to make everything so complicated. Even story writing. I was petrified of the word novel for decades. I wasn’t worthy of writing a novel. Oh, please, Mark, stop your silliness.

I see posts like these all the time:

  • 7 Steps to Writing the Successful Novel
  • Want to write a novel? Here’s how!
  • 39 Things you should know before starting your novel.
  • How do you know when your novel is finished?
  • Writing a novel is as easy as Two (thousand) Steps.

Blah, blah, blah.

To me, it’s very simple.

Step 1: Remember that a novel is nothing more than a story, albeit a long one.

Step 2: Everyone can tell a story. Put the story into words. Once you have done that, you have written a short story.

Step 3: Now, to write a novel, use more words.

Step 4: You probably haven’t used enough words yet. Write some more.

Step 5: Check your work by answering these simple questions. Is it a story? Is it long?

Congratulations. You’re a novelist.

And remember this important fact, your long story doesn’t have to be good in order to be called a novelist.

Wait, you want readers, too? Oh, well, then that does complicate things. You can’t have everything.

Sorry, you are on your own with that one.

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