Writing a First Novel

by Daniel Hartley

Like many self-deluding fools, my new year’s resolution for 2012 is to write my first novel. Unlike many self-deluding fools, however, I’m announcing this publicly. There’s a very simple reason for this: a public announcement means that I can be held to account for what I said I was going to do; in other words, I’m hoping I can force myself into writing a novel through sheer fear of shame. You could call this the “Catholic” approach to novel writing: confess your sins to the world and the world will ensure you tow the line. (As opposed to the “Protestant” approach which involves entire days of guilt-induced suffering and privatised soul-searching).

I’m not going to say what the novel is about (partly because I don’t even know myself) other than to make it clear that it won’t be a literary masterpiece. I imagine it will be a below-par first novel, possibly a run-of-the-mill genre piece, possibly something more unusual. But whatever it is, it has to get written in the next twelve months. The task of writing this novel is as much a moral as a literary one: can I commit myself to a future and stay true to it? That, my dear readers, remains to be seen.

I warn you now, there will be excuses: conference papers need writing, essays need proofreading, translations need doing – not to mention the small fact of actually writing my Ph.D. – but by hook or by crook this has to happen. And on this blog I shall be publishing some reflections on the writing process. I guess these will include pieces ranging from general writing problems (characterisation, point of view etc.) all the way to the politics of form (why do we automatically assume that a novel must include characters and point of view in the first place?). I won’t bore you with extracts from the work-in-progress, but I at least hope you’ll find the occasional post of interest. Think of it as a communalisation of writerly misery – a sort of socialist redistribution of autodidactic ineptitude.

But that’s enough of that casual 2011 pessimism: here’s to 2012!