How to Write a Novel

  1. Accept you’re not like other people, then develop excessive wonder and shame — preferably both — about this condition.
  2. Obsess over the world’s brokenness until you glimpse how it works, and maybe how it’s not completely broken after all.
  3. Explain your feelings to people. Fail badly.
  4. Recognize that no good explanations are possible, but that stories can convey things in mysterious, irrational ways that are similar to occult magic.
  5. Think of an original story that will not merely become a bestseller, but will profoundly affect the hearts of millions of readers.
  6. Understand that no story is original.
  7. Understand that being killed by lightning, while simultaneously being eaten by a lion, is more probable than writing a bestseller.
  8. Understand that profoundly affecting the heart of one reader, even if that reader is yourself, is a dynamite goal.
  9. Get excited! You’re writing a novel!
  10. Continue writing after the first few days, when the early excitement dies and you need to animate 50,000-150,000 words into a strange, living thing.
  11. Fail badly six days out of seven, for seasons or years.
  12. If that one good day out of seven fills you with a deep, crazy joy that prevents you from quitting both the story and your life, right on!
  13. Doubt that day.
  14. Doubt the story.
  15. Despise yourself and despair, and don’t talk to anyone for a while because of your embarrassment, and consider a proper job like cutting lawns.
  16. Finish the novel.
  17. Rewrite and revise until everything feels perfect. Don’t cheat. It has to be perfect.
  18. It’s not perfect. It’s nowhere close to perfect.
  19. When the novel is done, survive everything that comes next — submission, agents, editors, reviews, readership — by emotionally divorcing yourself from the cherished work and writing something frighteningly new.
  20. Accept you’re not like other people, then develop excessive wonder and shame — preferably both — about this condition.

His Heart Was Going Like Mad and Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes

I’m finally going to read Ulysses in 2017.

I won’t use any supportive critical texts. I’m just going to read it.

I took this approach with Shakespeare years ago, and the plays became much more enjoyable and comprehensible once I stopped overthinking everything.

I’m also going to read the last volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I read the other five volumes a while back and loved them. I need to finish this year.