How to write a draft novel (maybe)
Towards the end of last year (2015), I promised myself I would put the blinkers on and finish a draft novel.
I didn’t have a single word stored that I could use as a foundation for such a daunting project. I had nothing more than a collection of unrelated ideas. Scary stuff.
NaNoWriMo wasn’t for me. This might seem strange to some. It is loved by so many and I applaud them for this. However, it’s something I struggle to get my head around.
In much the same way as people like jellied eels, sandals ‘n’ socks, mullet haircuts, or Arsenal football club–I’m not judging, it’s a personal choice– it’s just not me and I’m okay with that.
Given I couldn’t use this magical route, what could I do?
I could just delay it. Easy enough. I’m so busy. Aren’t we all? I have a number of major things to deal with. Who doesn’t? But mine are really, really major. Yes they are, but… it’s still just an excuse.
I could use every ounce of energy I had, draw on everything I’ve come through before and use it as fuel, utilise stray minutes, grasp the seconds, get in trouble at home, ignore distractions and perhaps allow myself a few rare moments of solitude and personal space.
Several months later (and a few pounds heavier), I have something that resembles a draft. I feel nervous talking about it. It’s far from complete and there is a long way to go. However, it’s starting to feel like publishing my own novel might actually happen.
Despite my self-imposed exile, I have sometimes called for help and been very humbled with the response (I’m very thankful to Tamara Shoemaker, Emily June Street and Tam Rogers in this respect).
It’s at this point that I also say thanks to every one of the FlashDogs. These things are a result of your friendship, encouragement and talent.
I’m a fairly private person, so I decided to write this with a view of being more open about myself and the process I followed; what worked and what didn’t. Perhaps it might help those still struggling to put finger to keyboard, or tempt those that have stalled to rejoin the game–if nothing else, it’s a bit of cheap therapy for me.
So, this is the story of my story (so far), Metropolitan Dreams.
Starting is the key, or is it?
See those tweets? You know the ones. They tell you to drop everything. Don’t plan. Planning is for fools, the procrastinators, the timid, the deranged, the people with too much time on their hands.
Haven’t you started yet?
But… part of your brain might be saying hold on just a minute–that path looks rather uncertain.
You might be the sort of person that wouldn’t book a holiday to some place you’d never heard of. Maybe, you might want to research a hotel before you stay in it. You might shy of parasites, or be reluctant to suffer a nasty tropical disease by not preparing. You might not be giddy with the joy of jostling with street criminals as you wheel your suitcase down Mugger’s Ave, while the sirens sing you a symphony–all in the name of an exciting unplanned adventure.
This planning business sounded more like me. After all, sometimes a 200 word-count piece of flash fiction could easily take hours and ten or more attempts at perfecting it.
I purchased a couple of books on outlining.
I didn’t start writing until I’d read the books. I then outlined the characters. I understood them, or at least I thought I did. I mapped their motivations and paths. I had a plan.
Did this work?
Turns out sticking to the plan is restrictive, and frankly, a little bit dull.
I might plan my road-trip across America before I leave the shores of Blighty: I know the car I want, the cities, hotels and must-see venues. Yet, if I’m driving that far, it’s as much about the trip as it is the destination. If I see a sign for the Bottle Tree Farm, it’d be nice to go off the road for a bit and check it out; hoping I can find my way back–maybe even feeling better about myself and more certain about the journey ahead.
So, my first piece of advice is:
Don’t start. Not yet, anyway. Quickly work out what you want and where you want to get to. Then go. If on the way, you fancy a detour; take it. Keep the map handy, just in case, but don’t let it rule you. You might enjoy where the new route takes you.
It’s not an adventure if everything is planned.
I have more to tell. But that’s enough for today. Thanks for reading.