Here’s a little blog about the labour and love of writing a novel.
Let’s start with the labour …
Everyone knows books don’t write themselves, it’s hours and hours of someone sitting alone in a room. I’m lucky I can usually force myself to write anytime but I can’t deny that I still spend many hours staring blankly at my screen. When I’m engaged in the work it’s not a problem, if the ideas are fresh the characters do the work for me and everything is effortless. But when you’ve been picking apart the same paragraphs for days—rewriting, rereading, rewording—it can become difficult to maintain focus.
I’ve had some editing disasters in my time. I ran up against problems with one of the books and rewrote it three times before I was happy enough to leave the storyline alone. I’ve made changes at the very beginning, then had to go through and make the rest of the story match up with it. Editing one book at a time is challenging, you use different sides of your brain to be creative and analytical so it’s impossible to do both perfectly.
I think the structural editing is the hardest part, that’s making sure that the plot is always on track, the characters are consistent, there is enough intrigue to keep the reader wanting more without giving away too much. If you have a lot of characters to work with it involves a lot of notes, highlighted reminders all through the draft, post-its everywhere, pocket notebooks in your handbag and the occasional light bulb moment when you’re driving.
When the story itself is secure you need to check the language. Sentences should be of varying length, they should start with different words, you need to avoid clichés and repetition, while spelling and grammar mistakes are the ultimate sin.
There’s so many things to think about, and that’s not just for a little while, it’s for months. I read somewhere that you should take the same amount of time to edit a book as you did to write it. Another of my favourite authors doesn’t submit a story to his publisher unless he’s edited twelve times. Editing a book is hard work, I’m not even sure if hard work is an adequate way to describe it, and yet I set myself the challenge of editing a four book series from start to finish. I truly thought it would be easier considering all four books had been extensively edited individually, until I rewrote the first book and made changes that need to be followed through into the rest of the series. It’s tough but I would never dream of setting the work free unless I was happy with it.
Now for the love …
Writing quite honestly changed my life and that was before I’d even shared it with anyone. I was searching for something I could devote myself to, I wanted to feel rewarded and challenged every day, I wanted to keep learning new things and have variety in my life. It took me a few years to figure it out but writing was the answer to everything. If it didn’t stretch me to my absolutely limit then perhaps I wouldn’t be so bewitched by it. No matter how much I practice I will never be able to do it perfectly, there’s no such thing, but the beauty is: if there’s no right way to do it there’s no wrong way either. The more I learn the greater the challenges become. Writing offers an outlet, it’s a means of self expression and a beautiful way to discover how you feel about the world. It’s intellectually stimulating, it engages every facet of your brain and forces you to consider different angles of the same situation. You have to see the world through many eyes at once, think about emotions and reactions, then cause and effect, you learn about yourself and the way the world works. It gives me so much before the words even hit the page, I do it for myself and for the sense of freedom it gives me.
Initially I was terrified of receiving any feedback at all but once I dared to let people read the stories I discovered a whole new reason to love writing. I realised then that the stories created from years of work could mean something to other people as well, in a way it takes the characters from my imaginary world and makes them real.
Thanks to everyone who’s been along for the ride.
Note: The idea for this blog came from the frustration of 9 months of straight editing, hence why I wanted to start with the labour. I made it through the first sentence and ending up writing the love first. That just proves it!