First of all I must apologize for the prolonged absence and lack of posts… As stated at the beginning of this month, I devoted all of my writing time (and more) this month to doing National Novel Writing Month 2014! And… it paid off! I managed to write just over 50’000 words in 29 days. All while keeping up with my full-time job, hosting various dinner parties and dealing with all the crap life tried to throw at me during the month (rather a lot…). I desperately needed to prove to myself that having a day job really is no excuse for not producing a decent amount of writing and I think I did exactly that… only now I have to get on with things and actually produce something worth reading.
Well… My collection of short stories about an imaginary census collector turned into a crime novel about an imaginary census collector a few days into the process and I really enjoyed writing in a different genre, for once. Unfortunately, for some reason my brain decided that starting to write this thing in the first person present tense was a good idea and so I struggled for the next 29 days getting the verb tenses correct (I kept naturally slipping back into past tense) and trying not to kill my main character when she got too annoying and judgemental.
Because this was done for NaNo, my chapters were growing way too long right from the beginning. The problem with NaNo is that you have to produce a tremendous volume of words each day in order to meet your target and so personally, I tend to describe every. single. bloody. thing that is taking place in each scene. There was none of that “show, don’t tell” stuff that they taught us about in university. Nope… just a load of mostly useless waffle. If I were to take an editorial hatchet to what I wrote, I would probably end up with about 25’000 words of semi-decent writing. I would then have to add about 30’000 words of extra info, plot and subplot that I didn’t have at the time because I didn’t plan the damn thing, so we’d be roughly at the same word count as we are now, with the second half the novel still left to write. But it might actually look like the story it’s supposed to be.
- Imagining all the creepy secrets that the inhabitants of Glennshore (my fictional island) are hiding, and how some of them interlink
- My characters getting high on pot-laced chocolate cake
- My secondary main character getting stuck with an abandoned house with an injured policeman who happens to be her ex-boyfriend
- My main character subsequently discovering corpses in the aforementioned abandoned house (never said they were all happy highlights)
- Deciding who the culprit is and how they did it
What I learned in the process
Unless you’re an expert at this type of writing, don’t try to write a novel you care about in the first person present tense. It doesn’t work. Even if it does for about a chapter, it’ll all fall apart soon enough and it is really, really annoying.
Take your time. It may take a lot longer to write the actual novel that way, but there’ll be far less editing to do later. Because as discovered in previous years, editing is evil.
It’s okay to realise part-way through a story that you actually don’t care about it all that much right now. In that case, you shouldn’t push yourself to carry on with something that you don’t actually want to work on at the moment. Turn to the piece of writing that is always at the back of your mind, the one that you would rather be working on but you can’t, because you pledged to work on this other thing for a whole month. I know some people will disagree and some people probably won’t understand (to explain: 50’000 words is never enough, in my case, to finish a whole novel… so no, I don’t have a finished novel that I just wrote in one month and no, you can’t read what I’ve written because I actually care about you and that thing is really in no shape to be looked at by anyone right now. I promise to give you something good when I have something good J), but I think it’s perfectly okay to set aside a piece of writing that you feel is going wrong in every possible way. As long as you don’t throw it away, of course.
The Conclusion and moving on
So now, after pledging to write those 50’000 words in a month and fulfilling that promise, I’m going to make a different kind of pledge.
I pledge to spend the necessary time on planning, researching and mapping out my next novel, which I will then craft as carefully and lovingly as possible in order to produce something that you can actually read. I don’t really enjoy planning my writing, but I do really want this next one to work out and not fizzle out part of the way through because I couldn’t be bothered to think any further than chapter 3. I am going to have a long hard think about what makes a great novel for me, and then I will try to use that knowledge to write my own. I don’t know when it’ll get done, but I’ll certainly give it my best this time!
Also, now that this writing madness is over, I will be brining you Day 3 of the Japan Diary very soon!