Writing A Novel Is Like A Marriage

By James Scott Bell

Yesterday I started a new novel. For the last couple of days I've been in ecstasy. A familiar pattern is emerging.

Writing a novel is like a marriage.

The initial stage is like going out on a few dates. You're first attracted to the idea, so you spend some time getting to know it. If all goes well (you remember to use Binaca, etc.) the attraction

intensifies. At some point you fall in love. Your publisher sends you money for the wedding and calls it an advance. You are now married to your novel.

The first chapters are like a honeymoon. Everything is rosy. You are passionate and giddy and completely involved. You write in a state of bliss. Then comes the hard part--the actual marriage. Like any marriage, there will be ups and downs. Scenes that don't work; chracacters who refuse to help around the house (leading to terrible arguments). But you've made the commitment and you stick with it. I don't know about you, but at some point in every novel I reach the point where I say, "Whoa, did I ever make a mistake! Why did I say Yes to this? What was I thinking? The hussy! She used her charms and dragged me in, like spider and fly. And who am I to think I can write this thing? I wasn't meant for marriage!"

Maybe you're tempted to have an affair, by writing some other project that beckons. They all look so attractive, don't they? "Hi honey. Goin' my way?" But you stay loyal and you keep going, and it is never as bad as you thought. Sure, you may need counseling. You may need to call on colleagues or family for some words of encouragement. But keep going. It always gets better.

And when you finish, you know it's been worth it. You've stayed the course. You and your marriage are honored members of the community of published fiction. And the best part is you get to do it again and again! Fall in love, get married, the whole thing.

When the book is finally off to the publisher, a transformation takes place. Now the book is your child. You have released it to the world, hoping it has the stuff to stand up with the other kids. But there it goes and you must release it. You've got other children to raise.

So I'm still on my new honeymoon. This is my postcard. Having wonderful time. Wish you were here.

James Scott Bell studied philosophy, creative writing, and film in college, acted in off-Broadway theater in New York, and received his law degree, with honors, from the University of Southern California. A former trial lawyer, Bell is the Christy Award winning author of Deadlock, Breach of Promise and The Trials of Kit Shannon series which includes A Greater Glory, A Higher Justice and A Certain Truth. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Cindy, and their two children. You can learn more at his website: www.jamesscottbell.com.

© 2004 James Scott Bell. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.