It’s National Novel Writing Month, and we kicked off November with Georgia Clark, local novelist and creator of the multi-generational storytelling night Generation Women. After a quick intro detailing how to start your first book and a punchy reading of her newest novel, The Bucket List, at Dream Midtown, Clark challenged attendees to bring their own writing voices to the table.
The budding writers took to it immediately, taking a short, 20-minute period to write the beginning of a possible first novel, with many sharing their stories afterward. Following the morning workshop, Clark met with writers to sign books and answered a few questions for us.
Dream Midtown: What is your best advice for someone starting their first novel?
Georgia Clark: You might not like this, but you’ve got to stick to a routine. It’s really hard to write whenever inspirations strikes, and most working novelists don’t really do that. We’re boring and we write at regular times. So find a time that works for you, whether it’s Saturday mornings, Thursday afternoons, Sunday at midnight, at a certain amount of time and try and stick to that week after week. Your body and brain will form a sort of muscle memory as you sit down and start to write. And so those early sessions of it being really hard, maybe you have some writer’s block, will start to go away and the words will start to flow. So my advice is: start a routine.
DM: What is your writing process?
GC: So in talking about my process, my general setup, the first thing I’ve got to say is, I’m not getting out of those sweats. I’m in sweats the whole time that I’m writing. I think comfort is key. I generally write from home, although I have had memberships at writers’ rooms through various points of my career. Writers’ rooms are places where you pay a membership fee to go and work in a silent space with a lot of other writers. I like to work from an outline and I generally work chronologically. So I’m not starting at the end and then doing the beginning and then doing the middle or whatever like that. And I like to read to inspire myself as I write. Some writers don’t like reading as they write because it kind of infects the work. That’s probably the wrong word, but some writers don’t like reading as they write. But I do. I feel like it inspires me to keep going.
DM: How do you deal with writer’s block?
GC: That is a great question. Now, I think writer’s block is fear. I think that’s what it is ultimately. I mean, if you have writer’s block just every now and again, usually you’re okay. I think that’s sort of normal. Everyone has their good days and their bad days at work or hobbies or however you like to consider your writing. But I think if you feel that writer’s block is really stopping you from starting a project, let’s dig into what that fear is. Is that fear that who are you to tell a story and that you don’t have the credentials to write? Well, guess what? No one has credentials to tell a story. Everyone is an innate storyteller in and of themselves, and everyone has something to stay. I really do believe that. There’s a reason why storytelling is one of the art forms that exists in every culture in the world and has been handed down from many generations. Just like music and dance, we love to tell stories as human beings. And you’ve got a story in you. So if your writer’s block is because you’re worried that you don’t have something to say, you do have something to say. If you’re worried about being a bad writer, everyone’s a bad writer at first, and the only way to become a good writer is by getting through being bad. If it’s just a matter of you’re feeling stuck, have a shower, go for a walk, call a friend, and then get down there and put some words on the page, even if they’re bad at first. Because after a while, they’ll become better.
DM: How is writing a novel different from other forms of writing?
GC: The way in which writing novels is different from other forms of writing that I myself have done, such as magazine writing, short stories, plays, and things like that is it’s just a lot more time in the chair. It’s running a marathon, whereas other forms of writing are more like sprints. You really marry a project. Like for example with a book like The Bucket List, I spent maybe three months full-time researching it, I wrote the first draft in about a year, and then the subsequent drafts after I was working with an editor like another sort of six months or so. And that’s definitely a short time to write a novel because I’ve done it a few times. Often, a book will takes years to finish before you even go into the publishing process. And then, of course, you’re promoting it for years as well. So it’s a marriage. They are like long-term relationships, so it’s really important when you’re thinking about starting to write a novel is to write something that you’re going to be interested in, thinking about and talking about, for years to come. So a theme that really resonates with you, a central question that really resonates with you, characters who you care about deeply, and a concept that you’re willing to talk about and make it seem interesting for years to come. It’s definitely a long road, but I find it super satisfying. So if you feel the call to write a novel, I think this is the sign that you need to start today.
DM: If you could write anyone’s biography, whose would it be?
GC: If I had to write anyone’s biography, I think I would choose my mother. There are a lot of historical characters and people in the world that would be interesting to dive into their world and their life. I’m really close to my mom, but I don’t know everything about her and everything about her past. So I think I would love the chance to, and maybe I should do this, maybe this is something that I should actually be doing, to research and understand my own parent. I feel like as you get older, you become more interested in who your parents are as people. They go from being merely like servants for you and people who you feel like you don’t really understand that well, to fully formed human beings. And I’m personally very interested in who those people are. So I think that if I had to write anyone’s biography, it’s my dear old mom, Jane.