Seven Good Reasons to Write a Novel and Several Reasons Not To

I’ve been writing fiction since Junior High School, took creative writing in university and starting publishing short stories (and a few poems) in the 1980s. 

I never tried writing a novel until I was in my forties, and the path was fraught with hazards, the road, littered with unfinished manuscripts.

Here we are in 2019, and I am just finishing the fourth draft of my first novel to go beyond first draft. Was it worth all the angst and self-flagellation I’ve put myself through over the years? Am I qualified to make that call before I have actually published it and received reader and market feedback? Can I do it credibly?

Hmm. Okay, be that way. I’ll do it anyway.

1)      The best reason to write a novel is because you can’t not write it. You persevere through the obstacles, risk alienating your family (because you need that private time to write), and face 100+ rejections when you try to try to find an agent and a publisher. And then you sit down to start your next novel – because you have no choice.
2)      You started off writing short stories, but have grown impatient with the limitations of the form. You feel that the apprenticeship has taught you enough about sentence structure, world-building, character development and story arc to write a novel that doesn’t suck, and you’re sure it’s time – or past time -  to focus your energies on a project that at least has the potential for commercial success.
3)      You have developed a fan base that is clamouring for more, bigger, better!
4)      You want to expand your skill set and master the challenges of a new art form and have an idea so chock full of thrilling ideas and fascinating characters, that it demands deeper exploration than you can possibly give it within the confines of anything less than a novel.
5)      You want to put your writing talent to good use and are looking for a form that gives you some chance of making a living along the way. Writing non-fiction pays better, but doesn’t fill you with the same sense of joy and excitement as something sprung entirely from your own imagination. So you write novels before enrolling in that screenwriting course.
6)      You need an outlet for the words and ideas that keep leaking out of you. You fill a journal, write and blog, and without even realizing it, discover that you’ve written a novel.
7)      There is no job satisfaction on Earth  that rivals the fulfillment you’ll feel when you type the words “The End” on a personal project that has consumed you for so long. And you get to re-experience it at the end of every draft!

1)      It can take a very, very, very long time
2)      Having spent months, years or even decades completing your magnum opus – you may find that no agent wants to rep it and no publisher wants to release it and self-publishing will cost you even more time and money – with even less chance of commercial success at the end of it.
3)      You are writing to get rich. Almost nobody gets rich from novel writing. Your odds are almost as good in the lottery.
4)      You tend to get lost in the novel’s complexities, mired in plot twists and turns, and have discovered you simply aren’t organized enough to manage the story flow on a story that's so darned long!
5)      If you are focussed completely on the novel, you won’t have stories out in the marketplace to help you build a reputation. When you reach the marketplace you will be a total unknown – starting from zero. You won’t be writing the non-fiction book or other project that will give you a survival wage while you write your novel.    
a.       So you will find yourself with a day job, like most other writers, and will surely have even more trouble holding focus and not losing interest in your novel.

I could go on enumerating the pros and cons of novel writing pretty much forever. 
But nothing I come up with  could eclipse the joy of Pro #7. Except maybe selling it to a publisher. Or maybe seeing it in print. And of course, it goes into a whole other realm once a major movie studio options your book for a small fortune...

but that’s getting wwwwaaaaaayyyyyyy ahead of ourselves. Far better to concentrate on something within our control - like writing “--the end--” on the current draft, and getting ready to take the baby steps that follow.

And yes...there is always more work to do. 


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