Are you satisfied? I never am.

Writing becomes addictive. Almost compulsive. The worst kind of compulsive behavior. It stalks you in the middle of the night, when out driving your car, when embroiled in the minutia of your work. Writing doesn’t stop. It possesses your mind and forces you to make decisions that you never wanted to make. Such as, do I do my job or do I follow the rabbit down the hole?

Writing is a 24-hour cable news network. It shouts and screams its biases and its commands that you pay attention to it. If you don’t, it sneaks into your psyche in other ways, often unnoticed as a slight and sly trick of the mind.

Writing demands its authority to be recognized. I’m not talking about the whims of a person who one day wakes up and wants to write her memoirs. Or I’m not talking about the person who has a great idea for a story and struggles to see if he can fulfill its promise. Each of those people should attempt it. Why not? Creativity should be embraced and encouraged. Go for it. Strive to write that book.

But no. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m well beyond that. I’m well past the time that I want to see if I can do it. I want to see if I can improve. Build. Create. Attempt something that hasn’t been done. Use language in ways that give the reader pause, enjoyment for sure, but pause also. To think, to feel, to experience, to live. Life abundant. Ideas free. Flowing. Beyond what I could imagine. I want to reach and grasp far above what I commanded a few years ago. This is not about the story. This is about the story commanding its attention, taking over my life, pushing me in directions I never thought I’d go. This is about being immersed in its flow, its pageantry, its tradition, its all encompassing … what is the word? That is what I want to know. All encompassing …

It’s discovery.

It’s progress.

It’s life.

It’s writing.

That’s where I am. Life and writing. One and the same.

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: “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.