Challenge,  On Writing

My Novel…

Never Sure What That Means…

I do know that if a writer is constantly referring to their novel in those terms, the chances are they have made that book so important, it will take a very, very long time to finish, if ever.

You never hear a professional writer talking like that, in those terms. They might say my current project, or my current book, or something along that way.

But “my novel,” never hear it.

And when I do hear some beginning writer say that, my first response is to ask, “Which one?”

But alas, that would be rude because EVERYONE around them should know about THEIR NOVEL, don’t you know…

Professional writers think of stories or novels as just one continuous thing they write, never making one or another more important.

So maybe a little hint here on a Friday night. If you find yourself doing that, you might want to just stop, start thinking about writing as something you just do, toss away “your novel” and just write some novels or stories.

But, of course, if you are really lost in this “my novel” crap, you would never be able to do that because, you know, “your novel” is going to be special.

Oh, oh…



  • JM6

    There is a myth of perfection in a lot of things, including writing.

    I use a very nice type of journal for exploring thoughts and ideas and plans and such. It has leather covers and really nice paper and I love writing in it. But I can never use it the right way until there’s a mistake or flaw in it. Until then, there’s a pressure that every pen stroke in the journal must be sheer perfection to be preserved for posterity. So I’ve taken to ripping the first page out of each new journal I acquire, so it STARTS flawed. Then I can relax and just write in it the way I need to.

    That was the one real advantage of NaNoWriMo for me. I did it (the wrong way) and wrote a novel without concern for perfection or publishability or anything else. And then the next year I did the same thing with a month of short stories, purposely written with no intention of publishing but just to figure out how to generate a month of ideas and write the things. And then I put them aside. Now, I’ve learned a bit about writing, and I no longer refer to “my novel” but just “the story I’m writing now”. I know you’ll consider it a waste and that I should have written cleanly the first time and still published what I wrote, but I needed to clear out the myth of perfection from my head.

    I’m still not good enough to sell anything (or, at least, no editors are buying my stuff yet), but I’m a lot happier writing.

    • dwsmith

      JM6, never a waste as long as you don’t remain stuck in that. I wrote two novels and a couple hundred short stories that were destroyed in a house fire in 1985. Only ones that survived were the ones I had sold or had in the mail to editors. (Typewriter days.) I never think of those as wasted. I learned from them and managed to get past the destruction somehow and keep going. They key is to keep going.

  • Kristi N.

    You’re right–since I’ve been gearing up to get my backlist up while returning to writing, I think of the one I’m proofing, or the one I’m formatting, but there is no longer ‘a’ or ‘the’. They are some things I crafted, but they exist complete and done, and I release them to be enjoyed or discovered. Once they are released, they are transferred over to the ‘business’ side of things to be fitted into my strategic goals. Once they are on that side, they are no longer novels or stories, but rather IP. So far it’s working out for me.

  • Balázs

    I don’t know. I think lots of wannabe writer starts with one idea they want to do so badly and in a perfect way. It’s their first step to be a writer. I had a novel like this, the one I had in love with and couldn’t think another project before I finished it. I did it, I showed it for several people and had a really bad response… So I started another novels. Now I am in a novel writing school where we write a novel, and I have another project besides it. OK, I’m far from being a professional, have only two short story published yet, but I wrote a few story, even though I’m in my learning phase. This novel writing school taught me to think about projects and not just one project… And now I have more ideas I can keep in mind for a while… I think the key is to learn to let go the perfection and let the most loved stories to the readers.
    (Unfortunately, I wrote most of my stories by hand and didn’t got myself together to type it into my computer, so… Lesson learned)
    Oh, I talk like I wasn’t new to writing. I still am. And this lesson you mentioned in this post was difficult for me to learn. But hopefully when next time I think about a project like „The Novel”, I will remember what was said here.

  • Jim Turnbo III

    Well put, Dean. Today I started my goal of publishing 52 short stories. (One a week for the next year.) Critical voice is a bugger, but I am well ahead of it now.

    It took until late last night to get the cover blurb, formatted, and submitted, but it’s lives, and available wide. I will say that over the course of the night I got hit with impostor syndrome several times. Even to the point when I woke up, it’s the first thing hitting my consciousness.

    Of course, the first critical voice question: Who’d pay 99 cents for a 13 page book?

    I’m happy to say I moved on and refocused on my half title sheets for a new story idea. I dropped the idea of trying to write one story a day and decided 2-3 a week. Took your advice on not jumping, but building.

    By the way, the Collections Class is amazing! Finishing week 1 homework today and will get it sent over.

    When will the new Smith’s Monthly go live?

    Thanks, Dean!

    • dwsmith


      With luck and a little time, by the end of the month for Smith’s Monthly. Making progress. Problem is with the restart, there is a ton of relearning of stuff that used to take me a few seconds two years ago. (grin)

  • James Palmer

    Great advice, Dean. I don’t think I’ve ever used that phrase, even when I was starting out. It’s always “the novel” or “the current novel.” Shows how much mindset goes into being able to write and finish what you write.

  • Barb

    You made me smile… because whenever I tell (my current project) to someone and then I see that person again after some time, they usually ask “How’s your book?” and I’m always at loss and ask, “Which one?” Too prolific for my friends, LOL! Or I don’t see them often enough, whatever the case is – was, since in the last years I haven’t done that too much.

  • Kate Pavelle

    I write into the dark, and when an idea pops up, I usually know if it will be a short story, a novella, or a novel. Or I *think* I know, but sometimes the story gets told fast, and at other times I end up writing for far longer than expected. So it’s “the thing I’m writing now.”
    I changed my production goals to daily word count for that reason. It keeps the critical voice from whining, “Are we there yet?”

  • Sheila

    I sometimes refer to the story I’m supposed to be working on as “my epic SF novel”. I’m almost 160K into it, probably going to be three separate books, and I haven’t written more than a couple hundred words on it in months. Massive depression last year, just ugh.

    Anyway… I see the “my novel” thing all the time, especially from people who seem to think they only have this one story in them, they’ve been daydreaming (and sometimes actually working on it) for years. I’m not sure those folks will ever get over the “my novel” thing.