8th June 2018
I am currently writing my tenth novel, and I think through all these journeys up Mount Writerslog, I have gleaned a thing or two about the process,.
I am going to share a few of them with you.
In no particular order:
1) Decide if you have anything to say: I run into too many people who tell me, "I'm sure I have a novel in me somewhere, I just don't have the time." If it means that little to you, then maybe you should think of doing something else. Silvia Plath would write in the morning while it was still dark and her children were still asleep. The universe isn't going to serve this up on a platter. You have to carve a path through it.
2) Make a routine: If you leave it loosey-goosey and you get to the writing when you can, you won't get to it. Life will always throw things up to fill that space. Set your time, as though you were showing up for a job in an office, and put your bum in the seat at the appointed time. Brains like to figure out patterns, so if you do the same thing everyday at the same time, it will be there waiting for you. I like mornings, and most writers do, but there are plenty of writers who burn their candle through the night.
3) Leave your editor-self at your office door. Most of writing is re-writing, as the saying goes, but that annoying little voice on your shoulder that tells you you're not up to it, is not a friend. Have the courage to turn off the voice for the duration of the session. If you're addicted to it, you can pick it up again on your way out.
4) Don't be rigid. The way I write is very different from the way many writers do it. I listen in wonder at writers who, before they have written a sentence, have mapped out their entire novel, every plot point, every hair that falls from their hero's head. I cannot even figure out writers who know the ending before they have started the beginning. I start out with ideas about characters, almost never about plots, and that has its pitfalls, because the text then can seem to meander. But the other side of the coin is that, if you don't listen attentively to where characters want to go, you're going to end up with a narrative that can feel a little stultified.
5) Don't stop until you're finished. At least with the first draft. For many years, I attended a writer's group, and every so often someone would come in with the beginning of a novel that they would pass around and we would read. Often what these people would want to know is, as one of them said, "Is it good enough? Should I continue?" If you need that kind of affirmation, the answer is probably No. Writing a novel is intensely personal and takes a huge amount of effort. Words of flattery are not going to sustain you through it. Just put your head down and keep writing until you've finished saying what you set out to say. Then you can listen to a few favoured voices and go back and do it all over again.