Getting started on a novel
I wrote fiction when my kids were little, and had some minor successes with two school readers published and two stories on radio. You can listen to the radio stories on my YouTube channel: The Recycler and The Table Cloth Dress.
Then I got distracted by work and writing nonfiction. I’ve written three nonfiction books, five e-books and several blogs (do they count?).
I’ve decided the time has come to stop talking about writing a novel and actually DO it.
To get me started, I am going to be very self-indulgent and blog about the process to motivate myself. I’m also hoping to hear how you go about writing.
me to me: What makes you think you can write fiction?
me: I have a character and an idea in my head, and I wrote a first draft last year. I have re-read this draft and found one or two nuggets and a lot of turgid prose. What surprised me the most though was that my main character was missing in action. A secondary character (her brother) was much better developed and I plan to ditch him in the next draft. The structure was also rambling.
me to me: Is the book worth saving?
me: How will I know if I don’t try?
How do you approach writing?
I realise from teaching business writing that it doesn’t matter how you approach writing – it’s the end result that matters. Some people plan thoroughly, some write fast and sloppy first drafts and some rely on templates to shape their writing.
I gather it’s the same with writing fiction – some plan thoroughly first, some start writing without knowing where the book is heading, some write to a formula. And so on.
With the first draft of my current manuscript, I wrote fast every day without backtracking to read what I had written the day before and without revising anything. I won’t write like that again because it doesn’t work for me. I wrote too much rubbish. I realise now that I like re-reading what I’ve written previously, reworking it and then moving forward. That’s how I have always approached nonfiction.
Leaving my manuscript alone for several months was not intentional. I got sidetracked rewriting my online courses, and that took me much longer than I anticipated.
How do you structure your time?
I wrote my nonfiction books by treating each chapter as a stand-alone piece of writing, and I wrote in fits and starts when time allowed. This often meant I felt like I was starting from scratch all the time.
My working life is different now and I have more time. Although I am still doing in-house training, I don’t intend writing any more online courses in the near future.
I have decided that if writing is to be a priority, I need to do it first thing in the morning. If I try and write later in the day, I find it hard to get into it. I am not a morning person, so getting up at 5am is never going to work for me. But unless I am running a training course, there is no reason why I can’t push other commitments to the side and write for at least an hour when I first sit at my desk. Writing an hour a day will add up to thousands of words on the page.
Do you sharpen your writing tools before writing?
One of my ways of procrastinating (is that what I’m doing now?) is to find yet another course to enrol in or another book to read on ‘how to write’. Googling, I’m amazed at how many books there are about writing that I haven’t read, and I’ve read a lot! It’s very tempting to take out my kindle and download a few. That will distract me for a while, but they could also reactivate old fears, such as:
- What makes you think you can write – you didn’t start writing stories when you were eight-years-old
- What makes you think you can write – you’re not good at telling stories
- What makes you think you can write – just look at how beautifully famous authors write
- What makes you think you can write – you haven’t had a burning idea that you just HAVE to write (actually, my current manuscript has been in my head for ages)
I was very tempted to enrol in a six-month novel writing course, but then reminded myself:
The secret to writing is writing
I couldn’t resist enrolling in Margaret Atwood’s masterclass – I enjoyed it, but am not sure I learnt much that I didn’t already know (in theory!).
How are you getting on with your book?
Email me or post your comments below on how you get started and stay motivated to write.
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