Writing Your Novel: Insert Fairy Dust Here

I wanted to write a novel for such a long time. In fact, I started several that, when I look back at them now, I can see were doomed for failure. At that point in my life, I had such a huge emotional commitment in not finishing the books I began. It’s hard to explain. It’s as though I felt that it was presumptuous of me to even try to write a novel. Who did I think I was? I was a writer, sure. And at that point I’d written hundreds -- and even thousands -- of articles for newspapers and magazines all over the world. I’d written non-fiction books. But none of those things were novels. And a novel is… well, it’s different. It seemed to me that a novel -- at least, one worth reading -- would have to have all the ingredients necessary to make any piece of writing worthwhile, plus it would have to have a little more. Magic. That’s what was needed. An interesting story. Strong characters. Good grammar. Good spelling. And magic. Only where the hell did I ever think I’d manage to get fairy dust?

So for a very long time, I didn’t write a novel. And then one day I did. In 2002 I got a fire in my gut. The pieces fell together. And I worked and I worked and I worked at it. And then one day, I had it: a finished book. Mad Money. And I was proud of it. I felt it might even have some of that magic: like the fairy dust had managed to get in. But I was shy talking about the book. Nervous in a way, I guess. Presumptuous. There it was again. What would anyone say?

One by one I told my friends and family that I’d written a novel and, as I did, I waited for their reactions. Expecting, I don’t know what: certainly less than they gave. “Of course you have,” several people said to me and “what took you so long?” And also “Finally!” It seemed that the only one surprised I’d written a novel was me.

Why do I share this with you now? It seems to me that if there is a single thing that connect most authors, it’s this: we get in our own way rather a lot. We make excuses. We give ourselves reasons. We tell ourselves stories. And all of this in order to explain why we can’t write the thing that, on some level, we understand must be written.

None of it matters. The demon voices in our head must be ignored, no matter how dire they make their warnings, no matter how effective-sounding the excuses they dream up. Just write.

And finally: the magic. The fairy dust. It can’t be inserted. It can only find its way. We sit down and tell our stories and we do that until our heart sings. And when we’re done, the magic is there or it is not. Either way, we had the journey. In the end, nothing else matters. We have our story. We ride it away.


Stephen Miller said…
Inspiring, Linda; thanks.

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