I was on the phone recently with a new writer who was stuck at 3,500 words of their novel and was hesitating to write further because they felt that they didn’t know if they could.
It reminded me of how I used to be at seven years ago, at six years ago, and then I didn’t write for about three years, still doubted myself.
Three years ago I did a weekend course on starting a novel and started to write what I called my first novel. I think of it as writing an idea now. Still doubted I could write though.
Then I joined a writing group. Some of us wanted to think that we would be published writers and some of us were there for the fun of writing. The group blossomed into a joy of writing group.
Then two years ago, I got another idea and merged it with the first and what is officially my first novel began. Eight weeks into the New Year, 2011, I was writing the full first draft of my first novel. It took me six weeks to write it working off chapter and scene ideas I had drafted beforehand.
I wanted to know more because I couldn’t begin to figure out how to move the novel towards publication.
In September 2011 I started the most amazing course on Creative Writing for Publication. The tutors were excellent and pulled from our rough drafts incredible final pieces for our homework submissions through their feedback on editing and critique at workshops in class.
By May 2012 the course was over and I took a two month break. With the course behind me, I began work on the second draft of the novel. Over the previous year, I’d tinkered with many ideas and after doing the course I realised how bad my first draft was but still the idea was there, the characters were there and I knew this novel was the start of possibly another one or two books. (I’ve decided that there’s room for one more, but it’s not a trilogy. What I mean is I still have loads of things I want to throw at my characters. Poor sods!)
So I started a second draft of this first novel. I also began putting the ideas together for the second novel. After all, the two followed each other so it was important to make sure there were no loop holes between them.
After two months I was floundering in ideas and problems with the plot. I struggled on for another two weeks and then stopped.
National Novel Writing Month 2012 was on the horizon. I’d noted it in my diary after meeting someone I met at an art exhibition at the start of the summer told me about it. I thought it would be a fabulous opportunity to start writing scenes in the second novel. I planned out the story structure and put together rough ideas for scenes for the major and minor plots. I was set.
Five days into November and 7000 words down, I was seriously stuck and stressed senseless. I couldn’t bear to spend another day worrying about these characters. I needed a break from them.
Over the last month or two I’d been fantasising about another idea. I knew the characters; I knew roughly what their backgrounds were and what was going to happen to them. I even knew how it would all end.
On one page I jotted down a few chapters worth of notes and began to write. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to know what was going to happen to my characters. Before I knew it, I was hooked on the idea and the plot poured out of me. (Except come Thursday and Friday I would get some lag, writers block, stuck.) My motivation now was that I wanted to know what was going to happen next, exactly as if I was reading a book for the first time, except I only knew as fast as I could write it.
This is what I told the beginning writer and I know I’ve read this somewhere before but probably didn’t believe it. Until now…
‘Write. Learn. Repeat.’
P.S. I would also add ‘Read loads’ to that list. And repeat.