novel writing

A million ways to write a novel

There’s a hashtag happening online this month, #writeabookwithal. Australian children’s author and all round excellent person, Allison Tait is helping people meet their writing goals and push through the pain barrier to push out a novel (or part of) in a month.

Last month, I sort of got involved, in my usual haphazard way. We were camping by an Austrian lake, so really, what excuse did I have? I even had Wi-Fi so I could boast about my daily word count online.

I told kids at a school visit the other day that I once wrote 12,000 words a day. That is true. That is what can be achieved while camping by a lake. In fact, I wrote a 35,000 word manuscript in 4.5 days. It was nuts. 

But then, my editor/husband read the manuscript, and noted some fundamental errors, so I went and deleted two-thirds of the manuscript. I spent several days more re-writing.

Years of writing training manuals and an impatient spirit means I can type fast. I like spewing forth a story. And after this experience, I decided this was the one and only way I would ever complete a novel.

But that manuscript, written last year, petered out and was never properly completed. Since then, life has taken charge. Kids are at school and preschool. There is endless driving to be done. And when not with kids, I have to earn a living. 

I’ve had a million novel ideas competing for my attention. It drives me crazy sometimes. First one idea, then the other. I’ll brainstorm, plot out, start writing, then the next idea would take over. I’ve been frustrated by my lack of time, and competing priorities, which in all my breeding years, never got the better of me. 

One of my short starts was for the CYA conference. At the time, I submitted the synopsis to my absolute dream agent, and my query was responded to almost immediately. I sent my short start to said agent, and then backed off. I hadn’t touched the darn thing in months, overwhelmed not only by life, but also by a fear of failure. I couldn’t think how to develop the story, and how to make it interesting enough to fill a novel and sustain a young reader. My competing ideas started leaping in, and again, I swerved in different directions.

But then I listened to the Grimms’ Cinderella, and I think I am back on track.

The story has completely changed. The essence of the premise is still there, but so much is different now. I didn’t have an antagonist. Now I have many. I didn’t have enough challenges, and reasons for adventure. Now there are many. The characters are wilder and wackier than before. The setting is more interesting.

I’m not doing #writeabookwithal, even though I happen to be writing a book at the same time, because unlike last time, my process isn’t about pumping out words, but working and reworking my first 1,500 words until I am happy with tone and character. And I am writing a short story version of the novel, so I know the story line works before launching into the thicket. 

This is all new for me, and like all creative pursuits, there’s no one way. So I meander, and see what happens. Maybe next #writeabookwithal, I will have a completed manuscript. We shall see. 


Are you writing a novel? What’s your process?

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