I’m a bit late for the next writing segment, but I guess in this case it’s better late than never. Please accept my apologies.
The first time I heard the term ‘university novel’ was after I had written my ‘university novel’. It wasn’t something that I needed to know before I completed that novel, but it did make a lot of lightbulbs go off in my head and it’s helped me mentor other writers along the way.
So, what is the university novel? From how it was explained to me, the university novel is your first novel. The one you start and complete to the end of the first draft.
Why is it called the university novel? Supposedly because it’s the one where you learn a lot about writing (voice, technique, plot etc). But I believe it’s teaches you so much more.
Not that I have this huge fount of success, or any success, to back up advice but I do have a few first drafts beneath my belt. That first novel will probably never see the light of day but that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful to its existence. It taught me a lot, most importantly it taught me about who I am as a writer.
- I’m a linear plotter and not a non-linear pantser.
- It’s okay to write the bare bones in the first draft
- I can write beyond the first chapter
- I’m not as dark as I thought, just a bit realistic when it comes to characters
- I love research almost as much as creating the story
- I can’t help but write my faith into my novel. It’s who I am
- I can finish a book
When I come across newbies who are seeking perfection on that first chapter without moving on to the second, my number one advice is finish your story. Don’t hem-haw over the first chapter as if all your eggs rest on that one chapter. They don’t, at least not now. Besides, as you write the book you’ll discover more about who your characters are, this will help you discover their goals and their motivations behind those goals. It will help you discover depths you never imagined when you first began plotting.
I’ve seen many writers give up after the first fifty pages or so and move on to the next story. The problem is, I’ve seen them do the same thing with the next story too. They never finish a book. It’s like they have writer’s ADD or something. I know the plot can seem boring, the characters dull, the scenery lacking the five senses.
Get over it!
If you want to be a writer you’ll eventually need to push through the first novel to prove to yourself that yes, you can do it.
So, you’ve got a few choices. You can either play at writing or work at writing. Completing that university novel is a step toward working at writing. It’s a step toward taking your dream of becoming a novelist seriously.