I’ve finally done it. I’ve started writing a novel that I fully intend to finish, and actually feel like I can. It’s been a couple weeks now and I’m about 16,000 words in, so I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts and observations on writing fiction.
But first, some background. I’ve wanted to write a novel my entire life. When I was young, I wrote and poorly illustrated a kids book called Sammy and Tommy are Friends, which I now realize I must have fashioned after one of my favorite books at the time, Frog and Toad are Friends. In the third grade I went above and beyond on a writing project and started writing a book, though I don’t remember how far I got or what it was about, only that it had an element of fantasy. And that I saved it on a Floppy Disk. Fast forward quite a bit and my next attempt came a couple years ago, when I had what I thought was a great idea for a young adult novel. I wrote a chapter and even joined an online writing community where I could get feedback, hoping that would keep me motivated to continue. But after the first couple thousands words poured out of me, I hit a wall and had no idea where to go, so I gave up.
Then about six months ago, I read an Eloisa James romance novel, mostly because a publisher had sent it to me, I was going on a trip and the book itself was nice and small. After I finished it, I was stuck not only on how fun it was to read, but also on how fun it would be to write. Couple that with my freelance lifestyle, and I felt like I had finally found the right circumstances under which to write a book. But this time, I didn’t want to peter out after 3,000 words. So instead, I found an online class on UniversalClass.com that wasn’t wildly expensive that could give me an introduction to romance writing. Throughout the class I built characters, conflicts and plot points so that by the time I finished the course a couple weeks ago, I was not only ready but itching to get started. So here we are, and here’s how it’s going.
Like my projects in the past, I had an idea for how I wanted the book to open long before I started writing. Because of this, I was scared that I would follow the same pattern I did in the past, finishing that chapter and having no idea where to go next. However, I am pleased to say that this hasn’t happened yet! I could see the first four chapters pretty clearly as I neared the end of the first one, and as I’ve progressed past there the general shape of each chapter has formed in my head before I’ve had to sit down to write it. This was definitely one of my biggest fears, and I think it hasn’t been a problem yet because I thought a lot about my hero and heroine during the online class and wrote out details about their professions, motivations, etc. Writers always say to let your characters tell you where the story should go, and because I felt like I knew them to start with I think that’s helping a lot.
The other thing I was worried would be a hindrance for me is my natural inclination not to outline. In high school and college I never outlined my papers, I just sat down and wrote them. So while I knew that making an outline for the novel might help me stay on track and continue pushing forward, it’s just not in my DNA. However, I was able to sidestep this issue in a way that’s been really helpful, though may be more specific to romance novels. Instead of an outline, I made a timeline. I knew where I wanted my novel to end and I had some ideas of major events that I wanted to take place, so I put those on a timeline and set to filling in the days in between. Then from there, I roughly mapped out how many chapters I will need for each day, since I am switching my point of view from the hero to the heroine by the chapter. I fully anticipate that this will change, and that’s fine. But having this scribbled timeline, my version of an outline, has been enough to keep me pushing forward so far.
As far as the actual writing, the pace has definitely varied. The heroine’s voice is coming to me much more easily, so I feel like I’ve been going at a better clip when I’m writing her chapters. The hero has been a little slower, and I feel like I’m writing differently. But I’ve decided that this is a good thing, because then the two of them will sound distinct, which I want. I recently read a romance novel in which I wasn’t sure at various moments whose point of view I was reading, and I’m hoping that if they feel different while I’m writing them, that means they will read differently as well.
Like many beginners, I thought that shooting for 1,000 words per day would be a good goal. A couple weeks in, I see that 1,000 words is a lot. I was kind of hoping that I would find myself writing at roughly 1,000 words per hour, and that hasn’t really been the case. I tend to divvy up my time for personal projects based on the clock, but I’m learning that as I move forward I probably have to choose one method or the other. I know that the word count would be more effective in terms of getting the book done faster, and I’ve been trying to commit to that. Because I also have a rough end date in mind, the date when I want my first draft to be completed. I’ve done some calculations, and I know that committing to 1,000 words per day is what is going to get me there. But I also know that life can get in the way. So it’s possible I’m not being hard enough on myself to hit these goals, and maybe after another month or two I’ll buckle down. But for now, I’m just trying to get a good chunk down on the page every day.
Did I mention that I’m having fun? I’ve found this whole process very exciting. Sure, I’ve had moments when a little voice has crept into my head telling me I don’t have the time or the energy or the skills to finish it and that I should just give up, but I’m trying to push it out. And something that has helped me, which might be a little unorthodox, is that I’ve been sending my mom chapters in installments as I finish them. She’s familiar with the genre and I trust her judgment, and her encouragement and eagerness to know what happens next have helped give me the confidence and the drive to keep going.
So those are my initial thoughts being roughly a fifth of the way into this project. To sum it up I guess I would say it’s going, I’m doing it, and it’s making me happy. And I guess that’s all I can hope for, right?