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Should I start a novel?

edited July 2013 in Writing
It's been a while since I've been on here.

I just wanted some expert opinion really. I have finished a nanowrimo novel previously and started novels but never finished them or half finished I guess. I've had this one idea in my head for years. I have had some attempts at writing it but I want to do this idea justice as I guess I've fallen for it.
My question is should I start writing this novel? Or should I carry on writing short stories and get to some level or skill or whatever first?

I've been writing on and off for years. I completed a short story course through Writing Magazine and I've wanted to be a writer since I knew that they existed. But as I've got older I've written less and I'm concerned my writing isn't up to scratch. I have written 2 and a bit stories lately but haven't re-written properly yet but will do soon.

I think I'm just concerned or afraid I suposse that my writing is not good enough to write a novel. I am going to plan a bit (not too much or I won't write it most probablly through over planning).

I am well read on how to write etc so just need advice on whether or not to write a novel? I'm 24


  • My advice? Write that novel. It doesn't matter how many mistakes, but the buzz you get when you write 'End' is amazing.
    Remember Writing Magazine has an excellent critique service for readers.I think it's £49 for up to 5000 words. I've used it, and you suddenly 'see' mistakes. Just decide on 1.the genre. 2.possible length. Okay, you will get all sorts of advice on plotting etc.It's a grey area, as many well known authors do, and a similar number don't. I don't, but do know the beginning and the end, but the 'journey' is the fun. Best of luck, and keep us informed as to progress. PS: I have now been published.
  • Go for it.
    You wouldn't be asking the question if deep down it wasn't in you to do this particular idea as a novel.

    A novel is just a short story on a bigger scale, you have more room for story development, and to give depth to characters, and room for sub-plots (if relevant).

    And remember you can take as long as you need at this stage, and write as many drafts as you need. The first draft doesn't have to be perfect...

    Good luck.
  • edited July 2013
    Do it now or you'll never do it. Time ticks by and life gets in the way so do it. Once you have it written you can still work on it to improve it, but you need to get it down first.
  • I agree with the others - write it. Learn as you go and improve it as your writing develops. It's normal for first drafts to need a lot of work, so you're not letting down yourself or your idea by making mistakes in that.
  • [quote=Carol]A novel is just a short story on a bigger scale[/quote] I don't entirely agree. There are a lot of similarities but there are differences too.

    Some good short story writers never complete a novel and some good novelists can't write short stories. Building your skill level in one might well help with the other, but it's no guarantee of success.
  • I agree with PM, it's a different skill, but you clearly have this in your mind and it probably won't go away - and so wht if you aren't experienced enough, by the end you may well be and you will learn as you go... then you can go back to the beginning again after putting it to one side for a while!

    I think getting outside a opinion is also a brill idea, but just putting it to one side before reading it for a couple of months will help you see any glaring errors yourself.
  • Jen, no-one's looking over your shoulder saying, 'you've done that wrong', or 'I wouldn't have done that'. It's your novel, and you have every right to try to write it. You've obviously had this story with you for a long time, so maybe it's time you gave it an airing and see how you get on. There's no time limit, no laws regarding what you can and can't write about.
    It's not the same as writing short stories: you don't need to condense in the same way, and you need to be aware that not everything needs to go into the written story, but belongs to the backstory - the 'how your characters got to this point' part. But if you know them, and know what you want for them, then go for it.
    Put it this way: will you say in five years' time, 'I wish I'd tried to write that novel', or 'I'm glad I tried to write it because either it showed me the way I wanted to go, or proved that I was on the right/wrong track'.
    One thing to remember; the first draft won't be perfect, and it won't be what the finished, edited and re-edited, work looks like, so don't write it off as rubbish if you think it isn't instantly perfect. Nobody's work is!
  • Write it now.
    I went straight from poems to a full-length novel, which turned into a series of five!
    I've had to re-write them, of course, but no-one's first draft is worth printing.
    In fact I've re-written the first one again recently and think it might just be coming into shape!

    Meanwhile I wrote another three - once you get going there'll be no stopping you and you'll learn from your mistakes.
    Novels in my opinion are a totally different animal to a short story - try it - stick with it - and you'll see.
    And good luck.
  • Just go for it. I agree with Ms B. I thought my first draft should be pefect. Now I know different. Make a start, you never know where it will end.
    Good luck
  • Sorry, I was generalising re a novel being a short story on a bigger scale.

    Yes there are some major differences, but if you're unsure about whether you can do it, viewing it in that way can be reassuring, and it doesn't seem such a mammoth task.

    Short story writing gives you skills you need for novel writing, certainly, but as said, not all.

    (In fact I've found writing longer length stuff has improved my short story writing...)
  • Go for it Jen. You sound like me in some ways, as I too had an idea for a long time and have only just written it in the last five years or so. Now aged 58, I wish that instead of listening to family and friends who said anything I wrote would be rubbish, that I had listened to myself, and written years ago. Write that novel, and enjoy it.
  • Sorry Carol - my remark was a bit blunt :(
  • No problem, Lizy.
  • Jen, get that bloody novel started! :P

    There is no such thing as 'ready', you're ready when you start to write it. You could spend the next ten years learning how to write novels (if that is actually possible to learn).

    Each novel is different, and the only way to figure that out is to write a few of them. Some are hard to writer, others are 'relatively' easy. You won't know which yours is until you're halfway through it. and even then things can change at the drop of a hat.

    Experiment, play, ask people doing the same how they're overcoming obstacles. You have to dive in head first and learn how to swim along the way. The best thing about writing a book in the privacy of your own home is that you can make as many mistakes as is needed to get it right.

    Just make sure you learn from those mistakes :P

    Good luck!!

    p.s. And don't forget to ask for help when you need it!
  • Jen, I've never tried to write a novel but I do know that if I have an idea running around my head that won't go away the best thing is to try getting it down on paper, however sketchy that first draft might be. Otherwise it just blocks the channel for other work I might want to undertake. Whatever length piece we are trying to write making that first mark on page or screen always seems the hardest. Good luck.
  • Noooooooo!
    Don't do it.

    Forget it.

    Leave in the back of your mind for the next ten years until it drives you bat crazy, you lose your job and spend another 3 years debating whether not siting down and doing the first draft when you were 24 was the right move. Have children and then panic that you will never write THAT book. At 47 you finally get chance to write it.. and wonder why you didn't do it 23 years ago.


    If only I had.... where would I be now?

    if..if..if... but...but..but...doesn't get the job done. ;) You know you want to... you know it won't go away until you do.
  • Wow! Thanks for all the comments really. I didn't expect that, you are all so supportive. I have tried to write this idea twice and the second time was too different to the first one I don't think I was writing what I should.
    Once I get some more planning done and have a basic idea of what I'm doing will be writing it.
    Really thanks to you all. I really should visit this site more often. It's only since I've started writing more that I feel I should come on here, feel a bit of a fraud saying I want ot be a writer when I don't write. Thanks again
  • Ideas develop as you go along. Things occur to you about characters and situations that change how you see things developing.

    Write down all the ideas, notes about your characters, it will help you get some idea of basic order and make it easier to start writing.
  • [quote=SilverLinings] At 47 you finally get chance to write it..[/quote]

    Try 62!
    That's how long it took me to retire, get over the euphoria and get bored, then get a boot up the backside from my youngest and put pen to paper.
    The moral of my story is - don't leave it too late, tho' it's never too late.
    Which in itself doesn't make sense but you know what I mean.....
  • [quote=Lizy] but you know what I mean[/quote] Scarily I do.
  • Good luck. It's a rocky road, but the only thing you have to do is to stay on it.
  • [quote=pbw]the only thing you have to do is to stay on it. [/quote]

    And you will find that writing does not obey the Law of Gravity. But that's half the fun...
  • So much good advice here and glad to see that you're going to give it a go, Jen.
    I admire anyone who has the stamina to write whole books! I have 'dabbled' with the idea, but find I get bored with the whole project while still in the planning stages. I'm far more comfortable writing articles and teeny, tiny stories - which is fine with me too. :)
  • [quote=Jen]Or should I carry on writing short stories and get to some level or skill or whatever first?[/quote]
    I'm only echoing what others have said before me, Jen, but certainly get it written. By the time you write it, edit, re-edit and edit again, you'll most probably have a lot more skills and experience than you have now, anyway. Good luck!
  • Well I'm writing down ideas and when I know my characters and a bit more about what's going to happen I will start writing it
  • I have been doing much the same as you Jen, I've started and restarted writing the same novel countless times. We all need encouragement and reading the comments made to you here, is a boost for me too. I wish you all the best with your writing.
  • Jen and PaulT,

    You may begin with the idea that your characters are under your control but once writing begins to flow, don't be surprised when they rebel and develop their own persona.
    Don't panic, it will be one of many indicators that the story has substance.
    Enjoy the ride and good luck.
  • Thank you:)
  • I am in the middle of writing a novel (actually I have two on the go but I am concentrating on one at the moment) and it is a scary prospect but if they won't get out of your head it will drive you crazy until you have it down on paper. I know that as I progress with it I keep realising that I need to change things and my characters take me into different directions. I know that when I have finished this first draft that there are bits that need altering already to fit the story. There are things that I suddenly realise would work better if they met here and not there, or he worked there not here etc. I think you have to write it, as other said, you will just drive yourself mad if you don't.

    I wish you the best of luck with it. :)
  • Gina, I'm in the same situation - two novels, concentrating on one, having to edit and re-edit: but by crikey, the satisfaction I'm going to have when it's finished!
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