Story of a Novel – Part 1

Have you ever wanted to write a book? Lots of us say we want to, but don’t actually do it.

I haven’t always been a writer, in fact at school, I was always being told to write more, because I was usually too succinct.  If only Mr Paige, my English teacher could see me now, and especially having just submitted my 96,000-word, first novel to publishers!

So, how did I manage it…

Having already published several books, including a book of short stories, an anthology and four poetry books, I had written some books before.  Starting about three years ago,I had an idea of a story which was going around in my head.  I don’t even remember how it started, but it was there nagging at me.

Initially, I didn’t write anything down. I had the beginnings of the story, the three main characters, and I wanted to get to know them.

Eventually I started to write bits of back stories for my characters. Who they were, what they looked like, the names of their parents, their friends, and I decided where they were going to be situated. I wasn’t necessarily going to use all of the information I had, but I needed it for me, to build my characters as real people.

Rather than drop my story into a real place, which I decided had too many fraught problems, such as I needed to know the place inside out, and locals might have complained, had I got things wrong. I created a town.  I didn’t need to know the whole of the town, just the main places my characters inhabited.

I wanted my story set by the sea because I’ve always wanted to live by the sea, so why not!  I looked at maps of the south west, and chose the look of a bay that suited my idea, but then created a name for the bay, and the town – Whittingbury –which, in my head sounded convincing enough.

Because I’m terrible at maths, and according to one reader, got some timings wrong in one of my short stories, I created a timeline for my characters, so I could work out how they interact in terms of ages, and where they were at those times. However, I don’t refer to any specific years in the story, because I didn’t want to date it too much.

From this point on, I had a rough sketch of my story, all the way through, and a very rough idea of what would be in each chapter.

Only at this point did I start to write in earnest.  To get started, along with a friend, we went to Weston-Super-Mare, and stayed in a lovely hotel for a couple of nights. During the mornings we wrote, and in the afternoons walked along the beach and chatted.

My writing process…

I’m not someone who does routine well!  I never had, because, basically, not having children, I’ve not had to live my life with the routine of mealtimes, school runs, and all the other things that come with having the responsibility for a family. I have a husband, but he, like me, is not worried about routine.  Why do I say this?  Because I read so often that writers should write so many words a day, setting aside a certain time daily, to write.

For some people this works, but not for everyone, and certainly not for me.  If I’m made to do something at a certain time (apart from when I had jobs that meant working at specific times), I’m not sure I’m going to be in the best mindset to do it. Not that I’m suggesting I’m awkward…

When writing I need complete silence. I don’t play music – as a trained musician, if I hear music playing, I need to listen to it, or tap my feet, or pretend to play the instrument that is performing at that moment. I am that child! Therefore, silence works best for me.

I have found that the best time for me to write is early morning. My husband leaves for work around 5.45, so I get up, write for an hour or so before my breakfast. That works best for me.  Plus, I can also write on Sunday afternoons when it’s fairly quiet, and I’m not thinking about other writing work I should be doing (I write blogs for other people).

When I write poetry, I do sometimes, write by hand, but writing the novel, I’ve mostly done on the computer.

I’m on the beginning of my journey.

Part two of Story of a novel will be about the planning and not getting side-tracked.