There are four things you need to know about Surviving the Novel.
If you’re going to get the most out of this site.
First of all, Welcome!
Congratulations on finding this blog! It can be really good at hiding from the people who are trying to find it.
The fact that you’re here tells me two things: one, you’re a writer—and two, you have a story to tell. Perfect. You’re just the type of person I’m looking for.
Surviving the Novel is for you.
Through this site you’ll get the things you need to be the awesome writer that you want to be, and tell the story you daydream about when you should be working.
Whether that comes in the form of encouragement to push through the tough times, inspiration to break up a bit of writer’s block, or a simple push in the right direction.
My goal is to get you to the place where you can tell your story, and to keep you writing even when it gets hard.
Notice that I never said the word “teach.” Did that on purpose.
I’ll talk more about this a little later, but for now, all you need to know is that my goal with Surviving the Novel is not to teach you how to write.
You already know how to do that, don’t you?
You don’t need another guy on the internet preaching to you about grammar and sentence structure.
Don’t feel like reading a long about page? Here’s the abridged version…
Surviving the Novel is a blog with the goal of encouraging, inspiring, and giving direction to struggling storytellers, with the purpose of helping them tell their story.
Secondly, hey! My name’s Wyatt.
I’m your host (that’s a fancy way of saying I run this place).
I’m also a storyteller, a poet, and a writer. Even though I hate writing…
That’s right! I don’t like writing. It’s boring.
It is! Don’t try to argue. It’s a slow, monotonous, thankless process. It’s something that’s exciting when it’s just an idea, but when it comes time to actually write, it’s something that you have to force yourself to sit down and do. What’s even worse, is that assuming you do actually start writing, completing even a simple 600 word project could take hours.
Writing is exhausting. I doubt I’ll ever actually enjoy the act of writing. I still write though.
I write, because I love telling my stories and sharing my poetry—and I love helping others love these things. I endure the pain and exhaustion that comes with writing, because writing is the best best way that I know of to do the things that I love.
My philosophy on writing is simple like that.
Writing isn’t romantic to me—I’ve never felt intoxicated by the act of writing, I’ve never wanted to use an old-fashion typewriter, I’ve never felt like I would die if I didn’t write. I know that these are popular ideas in some writing communities… But that’s not me.
And that’s not what writing should be. At least, not to a writer who, like me, wants to tell a story more than they want to write it.
Writing is a very simple thing. So we should look at it in a very simple way.
I am not a writer in the romantic sense. No typewriter, no urge to write (although this is one thing that I wish I had), no intoxication. Only in the most simplistic sense of the word am I a “writer.”
I have a passion for stories, not writing; and I consider myself more of a storyteller who writes, as opposed to a writer who tells stories. All that writing is to me, is the tool that I use to pursue my passion.
I write, therefore, I’m a writer.
Great! Now that you know that…
Third, Surviving the Novel is not a blog about writing.
It’s not a blog about being a writer—It’s not a blog about how to write.
Surviving the Novel is a blog about telling stories and being a storyteller.
Yes, lots of writing happens here. Yes, sometimes there will be an article published to help you be a better writer. Yes, you will become a better writer if you follow Surviving the Novel. However, here on Surviving the Novel, you’re a storyteller first—and a writer second.
Understand this, embrace this.
So, you want to be a writer? well, you shouldn’t.
Do you know what it means to be a writer? The answer to that question may surprise you—because if you’re reading this right now, you likely either A: currently call yourself a writer, or B: would like to some day call yourself a writer.
So before I go any further with this, I want you to take a moment and try to define what a writer is.
Write it down, keep it close by, because you’re going to need it in a few minutes when I show you why you’re completely wrong about what it actually means to be a writer, and why you really shouldn’t call yourself one.
I’m serious. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Got your definition? Great! Here’s why it’s wrong—and it’s really simple, actually—writing has nothing to do with crafting elegant prose that could stand up to the most beloved of classic literature, it has nothing to do with being the genius mind behind the world’s next great collection of poetry, it has nothing to do with being the author of the next New York Times best seller, and it has nothing to do with telling that story that’s been bouncing around in your head for all these years. To be a writer, is, simply, to write.
Writing is the tool that creative “writers” like you and I choose to use because it’s the most effective medium for sharing our creations.
This is such an important realization for anyone who calls themselves a “writer” to come to, because by calling themselves “writers,” they’re actually holding themselves back from using their writing to it’s full potential.
Confused? Don’t follow? Here are a few reasons why I can make this claim.
Being a “writer” comes with a lot of baggage and even more pressure.
When I first started writing stories, I thought that if I wanted them to be good, I would have to be a “writer” like all of the authors I had been reading since I was little.
I tried my hardest to always use the perfect word. I would spend hours pouring over a single sentence making sure it was as stylistic as possible. And for every good strong verb I used, I had at least five needless, and frivolously flowery adverbs to go along with it. As a result, it took me months to get five chapters into a story that would take at least seven novels to write!
That was a ton of time and effort I had spent—and my only real gain was discouragement: because when I inevitably compared my writing to that of the authors I had been trying to emulate, mine fell pathetically short.
The problem with being a “writer” is that it encourages you to be like all the other “writers” before you; and the simple fact of the matter is that you are not all of those other writers.
You have your own story to tell, and you can’t tell it the same way as all of those other writers told their stories! It’s your story, which means that in order for it to be its best, you have to tell it in your own style with your own voice.
Kinda hard to do when you’re being crushed under the pressure of being a “writer” like everyone else, don’t you think?
The writing part of being a “writer” is not what makes you excited to wake up in the morning and get to work.
Think about it, when you were in grade school, back in the old days of big blackboards and white chalk (before laptops and iPads invaded the educational system) if you got caught hawking a spitwad at the back of Jenny Gardener’s head, what was the punishment? The teacher would call you up and force you to write “I will not blow spitwads in class” one hundred times on the blackboard.
Was that a fun experience? No! But why not? I was writing wasn’t… I mean hypothetically I… was… Oh never mind.
The problem with “writers” is that they’ve convinced themselves that the actual act of writing is fun. They’re almost like religious fanatics, or soccer fans when it comes to how much they love the fact that they write.
But what they fail to realize is that they don’t actually love writing nearly as much as they love what they can do with their writing!
I used to be one of these “writers”—back in the days when I thought putting down 300 quality words was a good day’s work; but the moment that I abandoned the idea of being a “writer” and realized that writing was the tool I used to do what I really loved—telling stories—I was suddenly able to put down 3,000 words in one sitting and still have enough creative energy to come back later that day and do it again!
It was a shift in perspective, a narrowing of focus that made all the difference in my writing. Which brings me in to my final point…
You calling yourself a writer is just as ridiculous as a lumberjack calling himself an axer.
Bare with me here, I know it sounds strange… That’s kinda the point.
A lumberjack calls himself a lumberjack because it’s a title that describes what he does: he uses his axe to chop down trees so that they can be turned into lumber. His title clearly shows everyone, himself included, what it is he does.
Now, for argument’s sake, lets start calling the lumberjack an “axer.”
If you didn’t know that the axer’s job was to chop down trees, what information about him could you gain just by looking at his title? Simple! An “axer” uses an axe… Sound familiar?
This is very similar to the popular saying “writers write.”
Both sayings are true, but neither saying gives any real information about what that particular “writer” or “axer” does! A person could call themselves an “axer” and use their axe to split logs into firewood, or break down a door to a burning building, or go on gruesome crime spree. In the same way, a person could call themselves a writer and use their writing to craft a poem, make an argument, or, like me, tell stories.
The axe doesn’t define the lumberjack, it’s what he does with the axe that defines him. Why do we, as “writers” let our tool define us? Why not let what we do with our tool define us?
Personally, the moment I realized that I was actually a storyteller (and not a writer) my entire approach to writing changed: my focus shifted from the words themselves, to what the words were saying; I started to give more attention to who my characters were and how they related to each other instead of how they looked; suddenly action sequences stopped being an exercise in extremely descriptive language, and simply became… fun.
The way you define yourself has a direct impact on what you do.
I want you to dig deeper and figure out what you really want to do with your writing. Don’t just call yourself a writer—according to the definition of what it means to be a “writer” that you wrote down at the beginning of this—because that’s what everyone else calls themselves. Figure out what it is you want to do with your writing, and let that define you.
Fourth, Surviving the Novel has three different types of content.
The blog on Surviving the Novel is not the place to go if you’re looking for instruction on how to write or tips on how to describe the depth of your character’s eyes. You won’t get much of that on this particular blog.
(storytelling blog, remember? Not a writing blog.)
What you will get is three weekly posts that are filled to bursting with encouragement and helpful bits of information specifically tailored to keep you writing.
Everyone writes better when they’re inspired—and what better way to get inspired than to read? It’s advice given by almost all best selling authors…
Writers need to be readers. Not to pick up new techniques for writing, but to ignite your imagination and set your creative gears turning.
To read is to be inspired. So if inspiration is what you’re looking for, the Library is waiting.
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