This is a manual for anyone who has ever had
the dream of writing a novel and wished they could have a few signs pointing
them in the right direction. Not another How-to-Write-Fiction manual, I hear
you say. There are already plenty on the market. Why bother? The answer is, I
would like to offer the knowledge and experience I gained during my writing
journey to those setting out and who are looking for guidance and
When I was getting ready to publish my first
book, the advice was to build an audience by blogging. Although unfamiliar with
social media at the time, though that’s changed, I enjoyed blogging. However,
as the novel took up more and more of my time, I found it difficult to keep
posting regularly and stopped.
A while ago a friend suggested I rework and use
my early blog posts as an introductory guide to writing a novel. I considered
the idea and got as far as organizing the chapters but put it aside, as the
story I was working on had a deadline. Mulling over my New Year’s resolutions,
I decided that a good approach to getting the project up and running again
would be to post a chapter on the first of each month and, once complete, I
could publish the combined results as a book.
The title arrived thanks to an unknown school
teacher. A friend’s young daughter came home from school one afternoon and told
her mother she’d written her first story. Mama was impressed. “Wow, honey,
that’s fantastic. I didn’t know you could write stories.” “The teacher said if
you can think it, you can write it,” the little girl answered. I’m more than
willing to admit this is a simplification of what is involved, but it’s also
the truth and an excellent way of looking at the situation if you have the
urge to write a story but don’t know where to begin or doubt your abilities.
When I’m asked why I spend my time writing
fiction, the answer is straightforward—there’s an idea for a plot or a
character in my head that’s occupying my internal landscape and the only way to
maintain my sanity is to write it down. Once I’m underway, I fall in love with
transforming whatever is living in my imagination into a tangible form with a
beginning, a middle and an end. The beauty of a book is that once finished, you
are able to share it with others because the conversion from abstract to
concrete is complete.
As a novelist you have to accept you will never
please all the people all of the time, but the desire to share and for others
to read and, hopefully, enjoy your stories is a powerful one.
As with any endeavor there are obstacles to
overcome, but there’s no rule that says you can’t just sit down and write your
fictional tale. We use language every day, and most of us have been doing so
for years. We all know friends who love telling stories, from the latest gossip
at the office to what Uncle Bertie did in the war. However, if you are going to
make a serious effort, cultivate the following three qualities as they will take you a
long way down the road to fulfilling your dream.
Determination isn’t a constant quality; it
varies. A storm out at at sea can send huge waves thundering onto the beach,
yet at other times the sky is blue, the sun is shining and tiny wavelets surge
and retreat. Your resolve is like the sea; the wind pushes the water forward
but not always with the same amount of force. So cultivate determination—or as
I call it, stickability—and by focusing on your goal, you’ll increase the
chances of achieving your heart’s desire.
Developing a regular writing routine (aka a
writerly habit) cannot be stressed enough, and every writer has their own
rhythm and their individual method of tapping into the creative process. My
habit, for the most part, is to write as soon as I get up and inhale a large
coffee. I work for as long as I can, but I’ll also have periods of working
later in the day when I give myself a word quota and stay at the keyboard till
I’ve reach my target. Some swear by coffee shops or the library as places for
work. Sometimes words flow, other times it’s a case of patience, encouraging
them on to the page. Even when the words arrive, they’re not always the ones
you want; but if you’ve got something to play with—then that’s better than
nothing. Being disciplined doesn’t mean being rigid, but it does mean putting
in the time and effort.
Here are a few definitions of the word ‘drive’
from the Oxford dictionary: by compulsion, force along, impel, urge, compel,
energy, initiative, go along before an impelling force. You get the drift.
When you combine purpose and tenacity, you
generate momentum and enthusiasm enabling you to make progress. Energy bubbles,
and characters, plot, setting etc., ferment and incubate in your mind.
Determination gets you started and discipline keeps you going but most of all,
the act of bringing to life characters and events that exist only in your
imagination provides the impetus to continue with this fascinating, absorbing
yet difficult activity. Why? I believe it’s because creating something is one
of the most satisfying things you can do.
My aim is to give you the tools you’ll need to
get going on the novel that’s burning a hole in your brain. So…let’s begin.
(Homework from an introduction? What kind of
book is this going to be? Well, inspiration plays a huge part in motivation,
and reading about these writers shows you how dedicated they are to their
craft. Besides, reading is easy homework!)
Work hard, play hard, have a great month and
see you all on the 1st February.
Photo: Unsplash: nordwood-themes-EZSm8xRjnX0-unsplash