Having received my kit from the headquarters of National Novel Writing Month, I’ve been thinking about our group’s plans for when the contest starts in November. I also need to do some work on Hotchpotch, my open-mike for writers.
As such, I’ve had no time to write a full entry. However, we should be back next week with something to say.
I’m following a chapter-by-chapter breakdown with the key points and word counts. In my experience, planning is never a waste of time, even if the plan is eventually amended or abandoned. Indeed, I don’t know of any major novelist who doesn’t plan to some degree.
In this case, the plot has been amended substantially, but I believe it’s for the better. In the first few drafts, the main character achieved his goals too easily, whereas now there are a number of obstacles in his way. My favourite tight corner so far is where he catches a taxi to pick up millions of pounds, but doesn’t have enough immediate cash to pay the fare.
Like many of my drafts, this one is written in pencil into a notebook; even my plan is written on the back of scrap paper. I find this method more satisfying than typing it. When it is finally entered into Scrivener, I’ll edit it, so that becomes the next draft.
Writing a novel is a time-consuming process, and even more so are the rewrites to produce a tighter story, but it can be a rewarding endeavour.
When I’m writing a new story, I have a particular manner of approaching it. I tend to let it churn around and around in my head, and then when I think it’s ready, I’ll write it in one sitting. From conversations I’ve had recently, it seems I’m not the only one who works this way.
Yet when I was asked to write a monologue recently – which I performed on Thursday – I approached it in the manner suggested by the person who set the challenge. That was to think of somewhere that means something to you, either good or bad, and write about this place for 15 minutes without stopping. Then think of somebody striking, whether someone you know personally or who is in the news, and write about them for 15 minutes without stopping. Finally, put them together and use that as a jumping-off point.
At first, I didn’t know whether I could do anything with the place and person I chose, but after those 15 minutes of writing, I found a lot of usable material, which I then assembled into a poetic monologue. Instead of writing from the top to the bottom, I worked on the second part first, setting my ideas to an iambic rhythm; then worked on the first part second, using a dactyl meter.
It produced a piece with which I’m very happy and went down well with the audience. I wonder whether I should approach more of my pieces like this?
I’m tackling National Novel Writing Month at the same time, where the aim is simply to write the raw material for a first draft and worry about the editing at a future date. As always, I’m finding unusual twists and turns simply by the process of writing. For instance, the novel was originally to be a series of newspaper reports about an inventor, with a historian filling in the gaps. However, more and more of the inventor’s own words started to creep in, and now it’s written almost entirely from her point of view with only a little help from the historian.
The next time I work on something original, I might try writing it out instead of just thinking about it, but I’ve learned a little lesson on that front as well. NaNoWriMo was planned out on three sheets of paper the size of newspaper pages. This is fine to refer to when writing at home, but inconvenient to take along to a cafe.