The sensible answer is probably ‘no.’ If you do, most people will assume, firstly, that it’s going to take at the very most a couple of months to complete. You must be prepared for endless check-ups on your progress.
‘How’s the novel going?’ is a question that will seriously test your capacity to lie when you’ve spent the last week clearing weeds from the footpath, scouring price comparison websites for cheaper car insurance, taking up Rag Rugging and building up your stamina in the plank position. In other words, any activity going that didn’t involve writing a novel.
If it drags on any longer than six months, people are liable to ask in a tone normally reserved for their builder, ‘what, you mean you haven’t finished it yet?’
When people ask, ‘What’s it about?’ and you try your best to tell them, you must learn to deal with the expression of abject disappointment on their faces. The chances are you don’t even know what the novel is about, but if you admit to this, you’re going to get a look that approximates to What-Kind-of-a-Hopeless-Twat-Are-You-Anyway?
People also tend to overlook the small matter of achieving publication and envisage this book you’re writing as bound and covered and imminently ready to fly onto the shelves at Waterstones. Nobody wants to know about sheets of A4 held together by elastic bands festering on the slush piles of a hundred agents.
It’s no doubt different for an established author with an ISBN number to his or her name. But for pre-published writers, there’s a serious risk of laying yourself open to charges of pretension and of committing the good old English sin of getting ideas above your station.
So why, given all these hazards, do I admit to writing a novel?
Well, I reckon it’s a lot less pretentious than pretending you’re not writing a novel. Besides, people can be very supportive and incredibly helpful when it comes to research; like my midwife friend who found out for me whether it was plausible to strangle someone, other than a baby, with an umbilical cord.
A gentle way of ‘coming out’ is to do an MA which legitimizes the whole thing and awards you a qualification for dreaming.
Talking of dreaming, here’s a picture of the vintage typewriter I bought on Ebay. If you want delusional, this is it, because there’s no way I can write a novel on this machine. I can’t even change the ribbon. It’s really just a trick of the mind. I believe in the typewriter and the typewriter believes in me.