Last month, I gave a talk to a local seniors group. It was similar to the ones I have done in the past – describing my writing ‘career’, including the differences between writing in the 1960s and writing today, and also giving some examples of where I get my ideas and how I develop my stories.
At the end of all my talks, I’ve had various questions, ranging from ‘How long does it take you to write a novel?’ to ‘How much research do you have to do?’
This time I had a different question. Someone said, “They say there is a novel in everyone. Do you think anyone can write one?’
I had to think on my feet! In the end I said something like, “First I think you have to want to write, and then you have to make the time to do it, rather than just write when you happen to have some spare time or feel like writing. There can also be a big difference between simply writing a novel, and writing something that will be accepted by a publisher. It can involve a lot of time and hard work – not just the actual writing, but also the research you need to do, even for a contemporary novel. You might also have to learn about plotting, using dialogue, and developing your characters, and I also think you need to have a good grasp of grammar, punctuation and spelling.”
That’s a summary of my ‘off the cuff’ answer, which I’m aware might only have covered a small part of what is involved in writing a novel.
While we were having a cup of tea afterwards, someone else said to me, “I couldn’t write a novel. I don’t have the imagination to create a story.”
On my way home, I thought about this and realised this person was right. The need/desire to write (which means you make the time to do it) is combined with the imagination to create characters and their story. You can learn all the other things – and indeed, we all learn as we go along.
What do you think? Can anyone write a novel? And how would you have answered that question?