The Challenges of Creating A First Novel - Guest Post by Jody Medland

Continuing our blog-hopping theme, this week, we have a guest post from author and publicist, Jody Medland.

The Moors by Jody Medland
I first met Jody last year at the launch of his debut novel, The Moors - an event I subsequently recounted for Oddity Magazine. Following its debut, Medland's publishing house, Pen Works Media, has gone on to release gripping memoir Street Girl by Rozana McGrattan and epic fantasy Dragon Speaker by Elana A. Mugdan. Pen Works Media is rapidly gaining international recognition.

Since our initial meeting, Jody has proved a valued source of advice on my journey to publication. Ever at the end of an email or readily available to sit over a coffee and share his experience, nothing is ever too much trouble.

Our most recent topic of discourse surrounds something fresh in both our minds - the challenges of writing your first novel. We decided to share our thoughts on the subject in the form of a blog-hop. You can read my take on the experience over on Pen Works Media's blog, while you can discover Jody's musings on the subject below. Over to Jody.

The Challenges of Writing Your first Novel


...and why you should blindly ignore them.

Writing. The most basic form of communication, and yet the most powerful.

I’ll preface this article by saying that almost everyone and their dog seems to have fantasies or aspirations about writing a novel, but only about 5% of them actually do, and I find that quite fascinating for two reasons:

  1. It’s rare to find something that so many people want to do 
  1. It’s rare to find something that so few people actually do do.

To me, I just don’t get where the fear comes from. If the book ends up as garbage, fine. Just don’t show it to anyone. Like anything though, if you enjoy writing and you’re serious about getting good, you must write freely and consistently. Quality and craft comes later.

Street Girl by Rozana McGrattan
Published by Pen Works Media
Don’t get me wrong – if you want to get published and make a lot of money then you might as well be Frodo Baggins stepping into Mordor where the darkness is harrowing and the mountains are vast, but at least you’re on an adventure. The trick is not to think of the All Seeing Eye, or how much trouble you be in if you’re captured. If you have a healthy dose of blind optimism then you’ll be halfway up Mount Doom before you know it, with a bunch of peculiar but loyal allies to keep you company.

That’s enough Lord of the Rings metaphors for now, but you see my point. Think basic. Walk before you can run, or you’ll scare yourself into submission, which I presume is why most of the non-writing writers give in before they’ve even begun.

You also get the wannabe-writers who think they can write a book with zero knowledge, training or dedication, who become baffled when no one but mummy likes their self-proclaimed masterpiece. I won’t lie, these people kind of irk me – but at least they’re having a go.

To me, I think the most important thing about writing is to know why you’re doing it. Is it to relieve a little stress? Is it to promote a business venture? Do you see it as a career? Are you trying to land an agent? Or do you just enjoy writing? There’s no wrong answer, but being clear about what you want to achieve with your writing will help you set personal goals and expectations, and that’s useful, because it helps you prioritise things.

I am both a writer and a publisher, and as we’re talking about first novels I’m going to shut the inner publisher up to deliver an important message: you shouldn’t think about much more than what – in your opinion – would make a great story.

Dragon Speaker by Elana A. Mugdan
Published by Pen Works Media
I grew up in Devon with lots of older brothers and an older sister. Rightly or wrongly, I used to persuade them to let me watch a lot of horror films with them and, rightly or wrongly, they did – because everyone in the 80’s loved horror. It should come as no surprise then that my first paperback novel The Moors was a horror set in Devon. Why did I write it? Because I felt compelled to. Because it was exactly the type of story I wanted to read in a genre I’d grown to love.

I started writing the story when I was seventeen and it was a beautiful time because I had no restrictions with my writing, and nobody had any expectations of me – yet I was consumed by this idea of strange goings on in a children’s care home based in the middle of Exmoor.

Not only did I love horror, but I was obsessed with crime stories – particularly books and films revolving around tortured souls and detective-types. I watched films like Bladerunner and TV shows like Columbo. I read mysteries like Dracula and The Mystery of the Yellow Room and I drank it all up. At the time, some might have thought me to be a slob, but the truth was I was educating myself. I didn’t necessarily know it, but this would all count towards research for a career I’d one day build.

The thing is, if somebody told me back then how many hours I’d have to spend dedicating myself to learning about story structure, or how difficult it would be to financially keep myself afloat whilst pursuing a career in the arts – to the point of near homelessness, in fact – I may very well have given up.

Thankfully, I never thought that far ahead.

All I could think of – all I could ever think of – was what would happen in my next chapter, and how could I make it better than the last. I was blind with determination. Blind with passion for what I was creating. Maybe I was even blind with stupidity. Whatever it was, I’m thankful, because it kept me going.

The title of this article might suggest you’ll find some type of “to do” list about writing a novel, but although I could write 5-10 pithy statements about obstacles you’ll face, the truth is it won’t help you. Obstacles are almost endless, and different people have different skills, which means they – or rather you – will deal with each challenge with various levels of ease. If a writer is after a list of how to do things easy then they, for me, are not a writer, for a real writer knows the only truth lies in their story.

Story is what people care about, and the characters are what drive the story, and the motivations are what drive the characters, and the raw want or need is what drives the motivations. That’s all there is to it, and this can be as simple or complicated as you allow it to be.

So for those writing their first book, why look for advice when you should be writing? For some, there will come a time for learning the ins and outs of the industry, but seldom will that time come in the midst of your first piece of work.

Words by  
JODY MEDLAND is an award winning author and screenwriter who runs publishing company, Pen Works Media. His debut novel, The Moors, was released last summer, and his next book - a find your own fate adventure - is due for release this October. Pre-order your copy of The Somerton Man today.
Thanks for being my guest today, Jody and I am looking forward to THE SOMERTON MAN...

What challenges have you faced in creating your novel? We'd love to hear your comments below.

You can catch up with our previous guest post from from 26 July by Eric Klingenberg on How to Make Your Blog Successful.