Ryan: A Novel Approach


I love stories.  I always have. I grew up on Saturday morning cartoons and After School Specials.  I mass consumed comic books and Hardy Boys Mysteries. My mother took me to the small local library every couple of weeks in the summer,  and I would select a towering stack of books to take home and read at record speed.  

In sixth grade, the kid in front of me in homeroom was reading a copy of Stephen King’s Carrie.  I was riveted by the thumbnail picture of Sissy Spacek doused in blood and needed to know what that was about.  I followed that poor kid around for weeks until he finally returned the book to the library, so I could snatch it up and inhale it in one sitting.  After that, I devoured any Stephen King book I could get my hands on.  

I loved how books and television and movies transported me to other worlds.  In those worlds, the rules of this one didn’t matter, and people could be anything, do anything and go anywhere.  In the world of a good story, there are powerful ideas and deep questions to ponder, and I found that I could make sense of my life by reading about characters that were nothing like me on the surface.  

For as long as I’ve been a reader, I also dreamed of being a writer.  I not only wanted to meet interesting characters, I wanted to bring my own to life.  I was a teenager when I first attempted to write a story, but I ripped up my early efforts.  For almost three decades, my writing ambitions were inconsistent, characterized by fits and starts, bursts of inspiration followed by waves of insecurity that put me back at ground zero.  

A year ago, I became a published author when my wife Kim and I wrote a memoir called Unbelievable Freedom about our intermittent fasting journey.  It was both exhilarating and humbling to see my words in print and to hear that others appreciated our story, but I still secretly wanted to write the fiction that I have been thinking about since I was a kid.  

All my attempts ended in overthinking, self-criticism and little else to show for it.  Until now.

In November I participated in National Novel Writing Month by writing a 50,000 word novel in one month.  It’s an intense undertaking with no time to over-analyze, no time to back up and make changes, no time to delete the document and start over.  It’s about one thing and one thing only. The commitment to getting the darned thing done. It was scary and frustrating on one hand, fun and highly motivating on the other.  Now I have a complete first draft of a book. Finally.  

This novel approach (pun absolutely intended) to writing a book totally worked for me by getting me out of my own way long enough to accomplish the goal.  It makes me think about many things I have hesitated to do in my life out of fear. The fear of failure. The fear of not being able to finish something I start.  The fear of not being good.  

Writing a novel has shown me something pretty important.  Failure is an illusion. The success is in the doing. Is my book any good?  I hope so, but I don’t really care right now. I can make it better during revision, but in the past, my worry about being good preventing me doing anything at all.  

I set out to write a novel, and I’m pumped that I did it.  I’m even more excited to apply this novel approach to rewriting this book…or maybe writing another…or maybe a screenplay...or learning to cook vegan meals...or skydiving...or starting a meditation practice...or…