So I wrote a book…

IMG_2798Regular visitors will appreciate how much I hate to talk about myself (“HaHAHA! Good one, Murray! Such a cut-up!”), but I feel compelled to mention that I’ve written a novel.

Statistically, this is no big deal. If you’re sitting in a row of people, take a look at the person on the left of you and then on the right. Chances are that one of these people has written or is in the process of writing a novel or at very least has a great idea for a novel or may in fact be sitting on a novel at that very moment, which leads to the question: what kind of row are you sitting in, anyway?

From a technical point of view, it has never been so easy to write a novel. When I first started writing, it was either by hand or on a typewriter, which meant you really had to be motivated if you wanted to tackle a long work. Revising and editing meant re-typing the whole thing all over again. Who had time for that, what with Rubik’s cubes to solve and parachute pants to purchase?

The arrival of word processing and, more recently, ebooks and online publishing means that it is almost ridiculously easy to bang out a book and send it out into the world for tens if not dozens of people to read.

But as someone wiser than me once said, just because you can write a novel doesn’t mean you should. They say the same thing about signing up for belly dancing classes, by the way, but let’s move on.

It’s not the easiest thing for writers to hear, let alone accept, but most novels aren’t especially good. Few are great. Many are downright terrible. But even the good ones have only the slimmest chance of being moderately successful. The slimmest ones, on the other hand, are easier to sit on.

So why bother? Why have I spent the past year sacrificing valuable television time to work on a manuscript that may end up being read by a few friends and family members?

Because writing a novel, it turns out, is wicked awesome.

(And for the record, no one in my novel says “wicked awesome.” Someone does say “wicked cool,” though, which I think we can all agree is not the same thing at all.)

I have no idea where my novel falls on the “downright terrible/great” scale, but the process has been an entirely satisfying creative endeavour. I’ve written something with comedy! Action! Romance! Turtles! I’ve created an entire town out of nothing – the Town of Beaverly, home of Canada’s largest sinkhole and The Beaverly Modicum, which, if publishing a review of my novel, would headline it “Sunshine Kvetches of a Cranky Town” – it’s that kind of newspaper. I’ve invented characters – a biologist, a mayor, a young reporter (don’t worry; it’s not semi-autobiographical) and one character who surprised me by just walking through the door in the middle of the story and making himself at home. I’ve come up with a plot that centres around a natural disaster, which is just the opportunity the mayor is looking for to put Beaverly on the map. I’ve discovered that I use the word “just” far too often.

In other words, I will have no regrets if nothing comes of this manuscript. I won’t have failed. I hate reading someone described as a “failed writer.” You never hear someone who comes last in a footrace described as a “failed runner.” The satisfaction lies in the finish, not the placement. I’m used to short writing sprints of 700 to 800 words, so this novel has been my marathon. I’ve crossed the English Channel! I’m swimming with the endorphins!

I’ve had a couple of discussions lately about who exactly writers write for: themselves or other people. Every story wants to be read, of course, just as every painting wants to be seen. But I think the better analogy is music. There’s joy to be had in simply singing out loud, and if others enjoy it as well, so much the better. And thankfully most people are too polite to mention that you sing like a diesel engine.

So my advice to you is to write that novel or memoir or short story if you have it in you. Like singing, what harm can it do? Write it for yourself but with care and attention as though someone might actually read it. And, who knows, someone might. Find the time, because life is too short for regrets.

As for my book, I hope to get the sucker published. In the meantime, an excerpt will be published this fall in the upcoming Taproot anthology, which in itself is wicked cool.

And here’s an excerpt for my WordPress friends (“Fiction? We didn’t come here for no stinkin’ fiction!”) from one of the early chapters of A Hole in the Ground. And don’t worry: no turtles were harmed in the writing of this book.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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45 Responses to So I wrote a book…

  1. youretheworst says:

    Brilliant!

  2. Awesome, Ross!
    At the risk of sounding like a gushy groupie, I must say that I admire your feat here. It’s obvious that you’re talented, funny and skilled. That said, putting words into a lengthy novel takes more than skill and one-liners–it takes dedication, discipline and donuts (hey, I wanted another D word). But, I’m preaching to the choir…cuz you’ve actually done it!!
    I’ve not written anything more than 2K words. BUT, I have run a marathon (2 of them) and perhaps the qualities that it took to drag myself over the finish lines will let my writing “skills” tag along if I ever decide to tackle something with a little more word count.
    I’m off to read your excerpt and will be waiting in the wings for the publication date.
    Congrats!!!
    Michelle

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thanks. I write a lot, so the muscles are there, and in truth it was really 500 and 1000 words at at time, maybe 2000 if it was going well. Finding time to think about it and then put it down on paper was the hard part, really. Thanks for the encouragement, Michelle.

  3. Trent Lewin says:

    Fantastic! Congratulations of engaging in the marathon. I hope you kept hydrated. Good advice, by the way, about going for it when writing a novel. Tough work, to be sure, but rewarding also. Going to go check out the excerpt now…

  4. Trent Lewin says:

    You write with a tv voice… very visual. I liked it. I would read more.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      TV voice. Hmmm, I think I know what you mean. I purposely chose this excerpt because it’s kind of a stand-alone scene: curtain up, exchange, and exit. Hope you will read more at some point. Thanks for the comment, Trent.

  5. pinklightsabre says:

    Great advice to other writers Ross, thanks. Wicked thanks.

  6. Congratulations. Finishing a novel is an accomplishment that deserves a pat on the back and an attaboy. I think writing a novel takes a combination of effort and optimism only possessed by people who don’t know what they are really getting themselves into. When will I see this novel in my local bookstore in the NYT best seller shelf?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I had a small (very) publisher lined up (which was probably part of the motivation to continue) but for reasons not having to do with the manuscript, he appears to be balking. So perhaps never. So it goes.

  7. pjoy93 says:

    Inspiring (I’m about at mile marker 15) and intriguing. Count me as one of the dozens when this comes out.

  8. Ned's Blog says:

    For some reason I can’t get Karen Carpenter out of my head now (“Don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing… sing a…song”), but in spite of that, a very hardy congratulations, Ross. I know this has been a labour (see how I spelled that?) of love akin to having a child; the first part is wicked great, but after that first three minutes of inspiration the reality of what you’ve gotten yourself into sets in. Regardless of what happens, it’s a real accomplishment and something that exists now because of your dedication to telling the story. Cheers to that and to you, my friend.

    But please,

  9. Ned's Blog says:

    But please (sorry, a sneeze made me hit the post button prematurely. It happens to a lot of men I’m told…), I need to know where I can find an “I Fall to Pieces” ashtray. I would consider starting up smoking just so I could use it.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Ha! (I thought it was just a dramatic pause…) We write fiction to create the world we’d like, including novelty ashtrays.
      In truth, there weren’t too many times when I said, “What am I doing?” probably because it was spaced out so far. It gave me time to work out the really tough parts in my head. If I waited too long, though, the story would go cold.
      Speaking of cold, maybe put a sweater on; you might be catching something.

  10. Congratulations! Completing a novel is a huge accomplishment! Why, it’s wicked awesome, especially if it has romance and turtles (not in the same scene, I hope!) And all those people sitting with you in that row? Although many of them have an idea or an opening chapter or two, few have actually written an entire novel. It takes hard word, dedication and blind devotion to your idea to go the distance and finish something as huge as a novel. You, sir, are a talented writer–even if no one ends up reading your novel! (Disclosure: I wrote a novel, too, so I’m actually patting myself on the back here!)

  11. Great… Congrats About (hope I can call you that!)… I myself have been yearning to start a novel… You gotta take a look at this… You gotta help me brother.
    http://pratheekreddy68.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/checking-my-knack/

  12. Congratulations! It’s true, there’s nothing like thinking up a bunch of stuff and putting it into one easy-to-access package that you can then browbeat loved ones into reading. It gets even better when some strangers read it and tell you, “I have a great story you oughta write up.”

    I hope we all get to read this opus sometime soon!

    By the way. “Swimming with the endorphins.” Love it.

  13. ksbeth says:

    just change your underwear every so often, as you continue on your literary journey, in case you happen to get into a publishing accident.

  14. Congratulations, Ross! Just finishing a novel is a huge endeavour…and getting it published (which I’m 100% sure you will) is wicked awesome and/or cool, take your pick. I’ve written 5, published 3; and I don’t think I’ve completely exhausted my inner long-form writer yet. Good going! – Karen

  15. That is wicked cool. It’ll be a great read. You can’t go wrong with comedy and turtles. (Unless they’re ninja turtles.) Congratulations.

  16. Way to go! Finishing a novel is a lot more work than people think!

  17. Marc says:

    Hey Ross, it’s a great read – I want the rest of this, and all other chapters too. There must be a way to crowdfund this one, don’t you think? Oh, and sorry for being a stickler for details, but it’s coroplast (without the hl – which is something totally different, I think…) Congrats on completing this novel, and looking forward to finding more typos 😉

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Aha! That’s a terrific find. I’m sure there are typos aplenty still.
      I’m hoping Blue Ice will pick it up to get the ball rolling. If not, there are other options.
      Thanks, Marc.

  18. Paul says:

    That is an interesting excerpt Ross. I think the turtle scientist is a suspicious character – he’s up to no good for sure. Who doesn’t take a bag? You can use them for carrying things, for little garbage bags in places like the car or as a liner in the bathroom garbage can, or to pack a lunch or to put your collection of gummy bears in (oops, sorry,strike that one – not everyone understands), etc. And that Lemon character, she’s gonna be a forehead slapper for sure.Ha! You got a winner there Ross – a Holey winner even. Holey Beaverly!

    I have been pondering writing a book, but I need a lot more writing experience yet. You’re a professional writer Ross, and I know you’ll get your new book published – cause I’m already reading a book of yours and it is hilarious.

    Oh, as an aside, I guest posted on Cordelia’s Mom today http://cordeliasmomstill.com/2014/08/14/blue-lightning-a-very-special-guest-post/#comments If you get a minute I’d be honored if you’d drop by and take a boo. It is the kind of story that I write best. Any comments, criticisms or suggestions are welcomed with open arms.Thanks Ross.

  19. Congrats Ross! I’ve read about this phenomena of characters who write themselves into a story. It’s fascinating. I envy you. I wish I had a novel in me but it’s just not there. I can’t even create a decent blog post much less a town full of interesting characters.

    Have you ever seen one of Charles Dickens’ manuscripts? I’m sure it was unpleasant to write all that out by hand but the person I feel sorry for is his TYPESETTER. Who can read that mess!? If it had been left to me, the world would never have met Miss Havisham.

  20. Lily says:

    I’m always so impressed with people who can create worlds out of thin air. Writing a novel is a great feat and you should be proud! He’ll, I’m proud of you! I started to write my memoir and I have an interesting story to tell. My first couple pages were delicious, I loved them. But the more I wrote, the more I hated it and I just stopped after twenty or so pages. So what now?

  21. Letizia says:

    Love the extract, Ross! Looking forward to reading the whole thing!

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