Journey of a Novel – Week 2

WEEK 2

Day 8

Starting Week 2, I knew I couldn’t afford to falter any further on my target. I couldn’t be idle two days in a row, but my fear was an unfounded one. I started early this morning boosted by a trip to the gym and I rode that energy boost until I hit a wall. I had almost 300 words written by the time my work day started and easily hit my target in the evening. When I started this diary I made the promise I would post it weekly. Anyone who blogs knows how much effort goes into setting up that first post. Getting images together, attributes, categories, social media posts, refining and editing the post before you click ‘publish’. I was up until midnight but it was worth it to have made my ‘novel’ pledge public.

I had an easy run in to the 500 word target today but what I didn’t have is a plan for tomorrow. I know I am going to have to take a step back to move forward. I have read on more than one occasion advice against re-reading what you have written – while at first draft stage. The logic being that you will be stuck in a loop of revision and doubt, and never progress further. I agree with this, as I have lived exactly that with chapter 1 of my novel. However, I do think reminding yourself of your key plot points to date is worthwhile to ensure you don’t go too far astray. Plus I am a little vague on what happens between now and the next chapter opening.

Rolling Word Count: 2,824

Quote for the Day:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

Day 9

It being a public holiday the temptation was to aim for double the word count, or more. Instead, as planned, I used some of the extra time to plot out the chapter so far and think about the direction I wanted it to go in. For this I use Scapple, which is a tool for connecting ideas together into a form that makes it visually easy to read. Akin to a mind mapping process. But easier to use in my opinion. So I mapped out the first chapter in a spiral to show the path the story will take, and also to make it aesthetically interesting for me while putting it together. Again, as I stressed previously, it is in the process of creating the ‘Chapter 1’ story ‘map’ that it becomes embedded in my head and allows me to trash out possibilities. I will only need to glance back on it occasionally for guidance, or inspiration.

Another thing I do to help me set the tone for writing, and to keep me (somewhat) focused is to listen to music. I found out afterwards a lot of authors do this but for me it is an important ritual. Music helps me block out any background noise that might otherwise pique my interest. It also resonates with me emotionally, aiding in writing different character emotions. Lastly it calms any anxiety I may have from life itself, a bad day or even doubts about the writing itself. My choice of music is Pavarotti, Ludovico Einaudi and, my favourite choice, Yiruma A River Flows in You. They all have one thing in common and that is no words, or no words I can understand. Today was an odd one though were I wrote in silence, no music whatsoever because the majority of time was spent teasing a direction for the story rather than writing it.

Below are two Scapple forms I have used. The star form was for my short story ‘In Death’. The spiral form I used for Chapter 1 of ‘Orphan’.

Rolling Word Count: 3,362

Quote for the Day:

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” – Maya Angelou

Day 10

Today was a huge day at work, and a long one. So far I have been able to manage my writing before or after a work day. That time was eaten up today due to a 6am start and I would have had to sit down to write at 9pm to achieve anything. I have done worse days, but I know it would have been pointless. Energy levels, sleep and breaks are key, especially for me. Neglecting any of the above results in increased symptoms from depression.

Let me clarify that writing is an outlet for the cause and symptoms of my depression, and also an escape. It sounds cliched but if your world is not going well on any given day, being able to disappear into one of your own making – well it is damn good therapy. But trying to force it after such a long, draining day defeats the purpose. I will work hard but depression forces me to work clever too – which is no bad thing. If you are interested in reading how I stay positive with my depression check out my previous post.

Rolling Word Count: 3,362

Quote for the Day:

“Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” – Albert Camus

Day 11

I have always marveled at the ability of writers to paint a picture for their reader’s mind’s eye. They straddle that fine line between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’, giving the reader the ultimate control over the details they imagine for themselves. A friend of mine, Christopher Currie demonstrates it so well in his book ‘The Ottoman Motel’. He not only paints small town Australia so vividly – even to an Irishman like me – he also manages to do so through the eyes of a young boy. After reading it you feel like you have visited the town, met the characters, imagined the lives they live. It never seems contrived in any way. Chris gives us a living breathing town that any of us could walk right into given the chance.

I can picture my scene settings in my head but, again, the mechanics of writing, at this stage, dull that vision. Hence my appreciation for vision boards or photographs matching the locales in my vision. One such place is ‘Hardwick House’, where my protagonist currently resides after being displaced from his home city. I wanted stately without it being a castle. I wanted regal without the crown. Well cared for, history in every brick, but in keeping with it’s surroundings. So I reached back into my own memories and realised I had already seen such a house. Anyone from my hometown reading this would know Beaulieu House, which was built in the 17th century. It is 10 mins from the house I grew up in, yet I have only ever seen the outside of it. But every time I drove by it drew my eye, elegance nestled between the trees.

For me I look to photos, drawings, paintings, other writings to facilitate the vision I want. It is my vision, but it is inspired by what I experience around me. I see no issue with that, as life is inspiration as they say.

Rolling Word Count: 3,876

Quote for the Day:

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela (Madiba)

Day 12

I read a tweet from Neil Gaiman recently which alluded to amateur writer’s being obsessed with word counts and I must admit it stung. He is no doubt right and also speaking to his view of writing. But I am building a habit, a skill and I need a measurable goal to ensure I am working hard enough at it. Another writer whose tweets enlighten is Joanne Harris whose #tenthings series of tweets never fail as a worthwhile read. They make you feel better as writer and speak to those who have less words under their belts.

For me NaNoWriMo distorted my view of word counts, giving me a target much to hard to hit with a full-time job. I admire the inspiration it provides for so many and the camaraderie. But I felt I was writing to hit a number, where as now I am writing for the story with a rule of thumb on how long I have to do it. So while I speak to word counts I am not ruled by them. The number at the bottom of each daily post is me saying ‘I did as I promised. Today I have written more of my story. Tomorrow I go again.’

Rolling Word Count: 4,390

Quote for the Day:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ― Maya Angelou

Day 13

Today was a hangover day which meant the creative juices were most definitely missing as I sat to write a dinner scene. The idea was our protagonist had made it through an unusual day, beyond what is deemed normal in our world. I wrote the scene based on the ‘family’ characters all sitting for a nondescript meal with the interesting part being the discovery of a secret.

When I first came up with the scene I had only 3 characters involved, but that doubled to suit my needs as the story unfolded. But by the time I was 300 words in it dawned on me that the scene was arse about face. It needed a set-up which I hadn’t even thought of yet. I wanted to delete every word and walk away. The writing had been painful, and nothing special, now to know it could be pointless was too much. So I decided to leave it for an hour and consider if it was usable. In the end I kept it, but it again emphasises how some sort of outline it critical for me. It also speaks to characters and their place in the story. Dropping them in on the fly can result in a disjointed chapter as your mind changes on who they are as they seep into the story.

Rolling Word Count: 4,690

Quote for the Day:

“Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.” – Al Franken

Day 14

I sat at my desk with the intent to write, but the experience of yesterday still lingered. I felt so dejected having spent time plowing forward, only to hit a wall because I wasn’t thinking bigger picture. I reread what I had written and the set-up started to fall into place. It was sketchy and rough, but it will work once I took time to polish it in the second draft. I had given myself several avenues based on the opening scene – unbeknownst to myself. I am just hoping that I am not shoe horning something in and compounding an error.

I have realised I need to go back and flesh out the new characters I created for the scene. I have done this before via a questionnaire – as I mentioned on Day 6 – and also using the 16 personalities website to add some fun to it. That suggestion came from Kristen Kieffer’s Well-Storied website, which has many helpful tips on the different facets of story telling and how structure can bring a better outcome for some writers. Well for this writer. I am also going to accelerate my reading of ‘Storyteller Tools’ by M. Harold Page. The book gives an insight into commercial writing and how to develop characters and story via vision and conflict. It is my current non-fiction read which dovetails with Book One of ‘The Final Empire’ by Brandon Sanderson. I really need to stop choosing such amazing writer’s for my fiction books. The temptation to only read fiction is real when the writing is that good.

Rolling Word Count: 5,190

Quote for the Day:

“Let me back up a little and tell you why I prefer writing to real life: You can rewrite. A novel, for example, can be cleaned up, altered, trimmed improved. Life, on the other hand, is one big messy rough draft.” – Harlan Coben

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About Me

About Me

Scribbler of words, learning the art form from the beginning. Like minded scribblers can find my experiences shared in this blog. I am also a fan of storytelling in it's many forms, which will be expressed through the posts for the reader to peruse at their leisure. Here's hoping some scribbles catch your eye. Please forgive me any errors while I learn.