Monday, March 23, 2015

The Tricksy Business of Novel Writing ...

I am loving hanging out at the Pah Homestead - it is a stunning oasis surrounded by suburbia, with views and art and lush greenness and creative vibes. I have the loveliest space to work in and zero distractions. And there is a cafe right beneath me if I need fuel or refreshment. I am already cracking on with the new project which is very exciting. And somewhat surprising.

Before I wrote my first complete novel, Jack the Viking, back in 2005/2006 I was riddled with a lot of assumptions about how writers and publishing worked. I wish I'd written them down because they would give me a jolly good chuckle now. They shared little in common with reality. One revolved around the notion that once I'd written my first novel all subsequent novels would be easy to write because I would 'know' how to do it. Hahahahahahahaha - no.

Another was the idea that you started at the start and worked your way through to the end.

And you completed a first draft, then reworked the story through however many drafts it needed till it was the polished gem it had to be for submission.

And that you could treat it like a daily job. 9 to 5.


And if you think there is one right way to write a novel STOP. You are wrong! But hang on, actually, in a way, you are also right.

Arghhh - tricksy business!!

The truth is...

There are many different ways to write a novel. Planning it in great detail, chapter by chapter. Or starting with the flash of an idea and just seeing where it leads you. Working in a linear fashion from start to finish, starting at the end and working backwards, or shifting around constantly filling in bits all over the place. If none of these is how you are doing it, that's Ok. The way that is working for you is the right way.

Cherish that first time you write The End. And every subsequent time as well. Celebrate it. Because each time will be an achievement of a significant magnitude. Completing a novel will indeed teach you an awful lot about the novel writing process. Trouble is, it changes us as well. I don't want to do the same thing I did last time. I want to push myself and try harder and be more ambitious. I want to try and explore more challenging topics. I want to be a better writer. Always. I hope each novel improves on the one before. But they are never easy.

I wish I could write a predetermined number of words every day. 1000 sounds nice. How easy it would be to plan my life. Make a writing habit, people say. Just sit down at the desk and start typing they say. It's all about discipline. Hah. If only my brain obeyed my wishes. If only the rest of my life would stay uncomplicated, with a good night's sleep every night, without crises and unexpected demands, surprises and disappointments and things that occupy your conscious unbidden like a protest group on a sit in. It's hard work creating something completely new out of your imagination. Some days are good days with lots of lovely words flowing freely. Other days are best forgotten. At least I know I am capable of completing a project and, like eating an elephant (metaphorically of course), it is best achieved one bite at a time. I might not make the story longer every day but at least I try to make it better.

It has been a novel experience with the new project. Up till now my previous stories have been told in linear order, start to finish. This time ideas are popping up from different parts of the story. I jot everything down and then type it in where I think it belongs best. I can cut and paste later if need be. It is a little discomforting because to a certain extent my brain likes order. But the beginning is resisting arrest and I could easily get stuck there. And my mind is leaping ahead. Why not follow it and see where it goes? I am willing to accept that this way, as odd as it is for me, might produce a finished product equally well, so it makes sense to give in to it. I have a loose framework in mind for the plot, so I will just have to make sure every part is in place when I am done. Piece of cake. Hmmm.

And drafts. In the past I have drafted and redrafted as I've gone along. My first complete draft has been massaged and titivated as I've gone along. It makes me slower but then I end up with a product closer to a final version. Swings and roundabouts I suppose. It works for me so I will keep doing it that way. Unless I change my mind and do it a different way because that seems right at the time. I never say never. The aim is to complete a manuscript I am happy with. How I get there is open to change.

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