Wednesday, 28 October 2015

What works for me

After writing about getting beyond the first bad draft I started thinking about what helped me when I was in the flow of writing my first novel.

And here's the odd thing - I think it's because I obsessed over the first couple of chapters.

Let me set the scene. I started my first novel in my second year of uni, where we had to write a fairly long short story. My tutor mentioned that I could re-work it for third year dissertation, which was to write a novel for publication.

The actual assignment was to submit the first 10,000 words of a novel, along with up to 10 drafts of those 10,000 words, a full synopsis (suitable to send to an agent) and a breakdown of the process. It was... a lot. But by the time I had handed in my final piece, I was raring to write the rest of it.

And there were no issues. I just wrote. It was fun, it was easy, I knew exactly where I was going. I felt totally in control of the process.

I can only think that this is because of the amount of work that went into those first 10,000 words. In those (often incredibly shitty) first drafts, I experimented with first and third person, a few different points-of-view, a combination of points-of-view. I got to know the characters, I figured out where the story was going and eventually I broke through and found the voice of the novel.

All the hard work done in those 10,000 words the rest felt like a breeze. I knew the plot points I had to hit, so I could relax and have fun with the journey to getting to all of them.

This is not a method that I have ever used again. Every successive story that I've tried to write, I've aimed to just sit down and write. I've always foundered on characters, plot points, found that there wasn't enough and ground to a halt.

Perhaps this is what works for me. Perhaps I need to hash out the first few chapters, treat them as a play to experiment with voice, characters, plot, world. That also gives me time to mull over what's coming up later in the story.

Without the pressure of a university deadline, this could be a recipe for disaster. But it's worth a shot, right?

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