At the end of last year I shared with you all that I had undertaken the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) writing challenge, aiming to write 50,000 words (ostensibly a novel) in 30 days. In what was an incredible achievement for me, I hit that target, successfully getting more than 50,000 words down on (digital) paper in 30 days.
The only problem was that my novel wasn’t even close to being finished.
I had never written so much on a single creative project in my entire life, but when I realised how much work there still was to do, I baulked. My novel sat untouched all of July. In February I reread some passages, did some editing and then decided that I just didn’t have the time right now. A new semester of university was on the horizon, and a teaching practical of some five weeks would need to be done, and there was work and volunteering and… Well you get the idea.
March rolled past, and then it was April. I was busy, but there was this little voice at the back of my head constantly clearing it’s voice and saying, oh so quietly: What about your story?
I tried to ignore it, I focused on my work and on university and on my life. The more I tried to ignore it, the more I found it intruding. I started to have my little daydreams intruded on by characters from my novel. They made little suggestions to me, unbidden, as I watered my garden or struggled to get to sleep. What about if I did this? they said. How interesting would it be if I was actually harbouring this secret?
At some point, these little suggestions seemed to hook into my creative subconscious. I realised that I wasn’t lacking motivation for my novel, I was scared. I had this enormous, fantastic, adventurous story just bubbling away in my brain, but I had no plan. I had characters who I knew would do amazing things, but I didn’t really know them. For NaNoWriMo I had taken the ’panster’ route, flying by the seat of my pants. I realised that I wasn’t doing my story justice like that, and that if I continued I might get the story finished, but it wouldn’t be my best work.
So, I went right back to basics.
I realised that my story was a good idea without a solid framework to stand on. So, I figured out my core team of characters, and I made each one sit a very in-depth interview that I got from K.M. Weiland’s (free) ebook Crafting Unforgettable Characters. I’m still in that process now (it’s a large cast) but already I have so many more ideas, and a much better idea of my own story.
Then I did myself an even bigger favour and started to get more resources, more scaffolding to support my story as it grew. This came in the form of hours of reading, lots of note taking, a few more of K.M. Weiland’s fantastic books (I find them so helpful, and am not being paid for his but would absolutely recommend them). I am writing my book in Scrivener, which I purchased several years ago on special. A paid update has been released since, but I haven’t updated it (although I’m thinking about it). Weiland also offers a fantastic (and again recommended) free Scrivener template for writing a novel using the three act structure. Slowly but surely, I am making progress.
Finding time for creative projects has always been something that I have struggled with. In fact, when I first started working full-time as a writer I abandoned many of my creative projects simply because I felt I didn’t have the energy or time, including for a period this blog. Now, I understand just how much value my creative projects have in my life, so I make sure that I prioritise those things as well. With my blog I am to publish at least once a week, and usually write a few posts in a burst on a weekend or quiet weekday evening. With my novel however, I find I work best on it when I’m absolutely fresh, so I’ve been getting up just a little bit early and starting on it first thing in the morning with my coffee.
Look, I know that I have a long way to go. A novel is a massive achievement for me, and even though I’m not anywhere near the finish line I feel fantastic that it’s something I’m working on. My goals are in place, and I’m finally approaching my novel in a logical way, understanding all the little parts that are going to make it a great story.
Wish me luck!