Friday, 29 November 2013

Writing - Does everyone really have a novel in them?

The title of today's blog may seem rather strange as I've just completed my sixth and have begun the seventh novel. I'm not bragging I'm hooked! In this month where we are coming to the end of another annual NaNoWriMo where writers, experienced and otherwise, try and write a 50000 word novel in 30 days. It was started by freelance writer Chris Baty in July 1999 with just 21 participants in San Francisco, NaNoWriMo now boasts that 300,000 people across the world have taken part this month. There are various offers about having the work published by a variety of companies such as my own publisher Completely 

The question is have you a novel inside you? NaNoWriMo. if you take part, will encourage the development of good writing habits and if that creative seed is in your mind then it may be the beginning of great things or not! You do have to be realistic sadly and simple facts like any one of the top dozen publishers reads 60k new manuscripts every month and only publishes 1 debut novel, is slightly deflating. I learned this early on but it didn't deflect me from my aim.

For a number of years I have wanted to write a book but the need to earn money and family commitments combined to suppress the need. Nobody's fault but my own. The fact is writing a novel is rather like eating an elephant - you can only do it one bite at a time. Unfortunately I can't remember the day I began my first book, 'I Have To Get It Write', but I know it was 2009. The other thing that I knew was if I followed the advice of some and started by planning extensively it would have blunted the edge of my creative sword. I did produce a short plan so that I had a direction and that I could go back to as a dynamic tool to further the story as I was writing. The important act was to write.

On the planning issue, which I have covered before, the style is as individual as the writer. Some have to plan the whole book, in fact J K Rowling is purported to have the final action of her Potter series planned well before she'd completed half the series of stories. On the other hand Ian Rankin, who writes the Rebus detective novels, doesn't plan - he writes.

The act of taking part in NaNoWriMo gets you writing daily and that is probably the most important habit to get into as soon as possible in your writing journey. It is not just so that you become a more accomplished writer, from the 'practice makes perfect' point of view, but so that you can grow into all aspects of the compulsion. That is what it is - a compulsion - and that is why, in retrospect, I didn't start while holding down full time work. I have immense admiration for those tireless people that work and maintain a family while trying to satisfy their need to write.

I suppose that once you have accepted the fact that writing is a compulsion then you have to also accept that it won't go away even if you don't become published in the conservative sense of the word. Unlike various illegal substances this compulsion will not seriously damage your health. Well, you may put on a little weight because you haven't time to go to the gym or out for a jog. Also there may be a tendency to snack on inappropriate foods because you missed meals and its two in the morning! By the way you may realise that your friends and relatives don't contact you anymore which is hardly their fault as you never replied to their messages. So your social life may be seriously affected!

The other big issue about the writing is which genre do you want to dip into? Could be SF, Poetry, News articles, Flash fiction, Thrillers and so on - or all of them! When you write for the first time it is rather like opening the door of the wardrobe in the Narnia stories. You have no idea why the thought of what might be on the other side of that door sends a shiver down your spine, or why you feel like a child again. The fact is that you are about to step through into a totally unfettered world where you are free in every sense of the word. You can write precisely what you like. 

Writing is probably the only activity easily accessible to the majority of people and which takes a minimum amount of expenditure but involves the most amazing tool made available to mankind - imagination!

God Bless