Today’s guest is Yona Zeldis McDonough, the award-winning author of six novels, most recently You Were Meant for Me. She is also the author of twenty-three books for children and she’s the editor of two essay collections. Of today’s post, Yona says: “I have written six novels and I want to share some of what I have learned along the way. Writing a novel is a like being a long distance runner—you have to have endurance. I believe what I have to say on the topic will be useful to other writers.”
“With a deft, sure touch, Yona Zeldis McDonough explores the ways families are formed and how love can take you by surprise. An absorbing and soul-stirring novel.” — Christina Baker Kline, #1 NYT bestselling author of Orphan Train
Yona lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband, two children (18 and 23), and “two small, yappy Pomeranians.” You can find her on Facebook and on her website where she loves to connect with readers.
Two Pages Tell a Story
I started my writing career by writing short fiction, and the short story remains a form I still love to read and write. Writing a piece of short fiction offers its own particular kind of joy to its author: a story is like a baby you hold in your arms. You can see every little bit of it at the same time; you can keep it close to your heart. It communicates with you simply and directly. It is, in a word, a seamless whole.
But a novel is a whole different animal. If a short story is a babe in arms, a novel is like a grapefruit balanced on the back of an ant. The load is enormous and progress is predictably slow. A novel is big, unwieldy and sprawling; you can’t hold in your arms; in fact, you can’t hold it at all. Instead you have to shape it, direct it, beat it into submission. And unlike a story, you can’t sit down and power your way through it. No, a novel requires the endurance, stamina and patience of the long distance runner. Only the most devoted and patient practitioners will succeed and thrive.
Yet I had a novel I wanted—and needed—to write; how was I going to overcome the obstacles inherent in the nature of the form itself and get it done? I wasn’t looking for a magic bullet—I knew that nothing could replace the hard work and sustained concentration that novel writing required. I was just looking for a little boost along the way, something to help get me through the forest and out into the clearing.
I thrashed around for a while and stumbled on to the answer almost by chance. Continue Reading »