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Why Write a Novel—Your Reason is the Right One

February 12, 2011 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill
last modified February 12, 2011

Do you need an excuse to write your novel? Do you hide away in your home office at night, ashamed to admit you’re working on a book? Do you keep the details of your writing life secret, safe from the ridicule or censure or even the praise of family and friends?

While you may want to keep your projects private, there’s no reason to hide the fact that you write. Quite respectable people do it. Yes, upstanding citizens around the world are right now working on their first or third or tenth novel. And they like doing it. Writing satisfies a need in them, maybe two or three needs.

Writers tackle novels and other long fiction for any number of reasons. And one writer may have 3 or 4 reasons to try that first novel. Another writer may cite one reason in the morning and another in the evening, both equally valid.

Whatever is behind the reasons, they serve to keep us writing, keep us at our task. And if that task is self-imposed, if you’re not writing to deadline for your publisher or someone else, you might need a reminder of those reasons to keep you on track and motivated. Well, if not always motivated, dedicated to the task. Eager to see the results.

Anxious to finish the thing.


Reasons to write a novel

1.  To challenge yourself, prove you can carry through with a complex, long-term project

2.  To prove to someone else—teacher, parent, mentor, spouse—that you can do it

3.  To fulfill a dream

4.  To have something to brag about at reunions (I never said these would be altruistic reasons)

5.  To fulfill a contract. If you owe your publisher another book, write it.

6.  To perfect your writing skills

7.  To have something special to pass to your children and to theirs

8.  To get on the New York Times Bestseller list—if you don’t write, you don’t place

9.  To do something your brother/sister/best friend/worst enemy has never done

10.  To satisfy the craving to create worlds and/or manipulate events

11.  To become famous

12.  To silence the voices demanding that their stories be told

13.  To make something from nothing

14.  To use the gift that burns inside you

15.  To honor a writer you admire

16.  To be a bigger success than a writer you detest

17.  To present great truths in fictional form

18.  To fulfill course requirements for a writing program

19.  To learn appreciation for literature and other writers

20.  To entertain

21.  To make a living

22.  To leave a legacy


The reasons are many. And varied. And all valid.

What stirs you to write is a legitimate reason for you to put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—and create characters, events, and worlds never known.

If your ambition is strong enough to see you begin a novel, to give up time and other pursuits, if it’s long-lasting enough to see you through multiple drafts and endless revisions and hours of research, then your ambition and the reasons you write are powerful forces indeed. Forces strong enough to withstand doubt and ridicule and interruption and fear and every other challenge that rises against the writer. Challenges from friends and family. Challenges from outsiders.

Challenges from within.

Remind yourself that it’s okay to write. That creating has value. That story is essential for both individuals and society.

And remind yourself that your writing, whether what you produce sees a wide audience or not, fulfills a purpose in your life.

Meeting the needs of others is important, necessary.

Fulfilling your ambition—satisfying the needs that drive you, that make you who you are—is equally important.

You may have many reasons to write.

You don’t need one single excuse.



Tags:     Posted in: A Writer's Life

10 Responses to “Why Write a Novel—Your Reason is the Right One”

  1. ~Sia McKye~ says:

    Very encouraging Beth. It’s true it can merely satisfy something inside you. Who cares. If you enjoy it, do it.

    Liked your reasons, too!

  2. Wanda says:

    I found many of my reasons up above. I really write to challenge myself with the goal of finishing one novel. I have many in the works but my goal for this year is to finish one WIP. Then? Who knows.

  3. Sia, I agree that enjoyment and self-satisfaction are quite sufficient reasons to write. If your soul is satisfied, if your mind is challenged, you need no other reasons.

    Wanda, I’ll be pulling for you, that you do indeed finish at least one WIP this year. Go for it!

  4. lanka says:

    L.e.g.I.t. advice!

  5. Harsha says:

    I am writing a novel and started without giving too much thought about the reasons. Just wanted to start writing it. But I was asked by a friend as to what motivated me. It was then that I thought about the reasons. Needless to say they are one among the ones listed by you.

  6. I’m a big fan of number 17. I write so that whatever messages are in the stories in my head can be spread to as many people that can use them as possible. Plus, I enjoy it, it challenges me, keeps my use of vocabulary sharp, and allows me to further appreciate what my favorite authors have accomplished. Many critics will say that you will not achieve fame or immortality from your novels. This is true; however, providing a novel to the public gives them one more chance to read what is hopefully a worthwhile story. Many critics discredit the use of books nowadays because there are so many of them. However, they fail to devalue the benefits of reading: better literacy, improved intelligence and reasoning, a glimpse at how someone else views the world, and even improved performance in the bedroom. I fail to see how providing any one person with these benefits is not considered worthwhile. I applaud the author of this article for the comprehensive list of reasons to make a novel. I would add that a reason to write a novel is to change. Whether you personally, your readers, critics, events in the world, lives that need to hear your message…who or whatever can be changed by your words. Choose wisely when considering to write.

  7. Great points, Naunie. Novels can certainly change others as well as ourselves.