Prioritising

According to WordPress, last week’s post was my 12th on My Wordy Journey.

The number alone doesn’t sound terribly remarkable, does it? But published at a rate of one a week, that’s 12 weeks…

… and 12 weeks is pretty much 3 months…

… and 3 months is a quarter of an entire year.

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I have to admit, it caught me off guard a little. It shouldn’t have done, really – after all, the number’s been going up every week – but it did. And it got me thinking about how much progress I’ve actually made with my writing since I starting this blog.

The truth?

Not enough. Some, yes, but not enough.

So I’ve decided to take a step back. I’m not going completely – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, not least getting to meet some fellow bloggers – but sometimes you’ve got to prioritise, and over the past few weeks I’ve been struggling to keep everything going. I’ve ended up working on blog posts instead of working on my novel – which is exactly what I didn’t want to happen. So for the next little while, my updates are going to be slightly less frequent. I’m still planning to post at least once a month, hopefully once a fortnight (and more often if I can), but I won’t have a post going up every week as I’ve had so far. I didn’t want to have to do it, but time just doesn’t seem to be on my side at the moment and if I want to meet my deadline, I need to put my book first.

Anyway, it may only be a small change, but I wanted to let my followers know. I’m chuffed to bits to have had so many people reading/sharing/commenting on my blog these past few months, and it seemed only polite. I’ll definitely be back though; My Wordy Journey’s not over yet.

 

CC Image courtesy of Pete on Flickr

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How Much is Too Much?

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Wow, you’re writing a book? What’s it called? What’s it about? What happens?

Questions. Lots of questions. That’s what I’ve come to expect when I tell someone that I’m working on a novel. And I do tell people. I get asked about my plans an awful lot now that my degree’s almost over, and I’m pretty up front about what I’m trying to do. It just ups the pressure a little, knowing that other people know. But while it’s nice that people seem interested in my work, it can be difficult to know just how much to tell them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m serious about getting this book out there. In fact, as much as I enjoy the writing, perhaps the biggest part of my motivation for this novel is the thought of it actually being read. It’s a story I want others to hear; I don’t want it to stay hushed up forever. But even as it (slowly) starts to take shape and my faith in it grows stronger, I still don’t know exactly how open I should be about things.

Take titles, for example. I have a title that I love, and I’ve had it for such a long time now that I can’t imagine using anything else. Part of me desperately wants to tell people. Apart from anything else, I’m a little worried that it might appear on somebody else’s book before I’ve managed to finish my own (I’ve even taken to googling it every now and then just to make sure it hasn’t been nabbed while my back’s been turned) and if that WERE to happen, it would at least soften the blow for me if a few people knew about my plans. On the other hand, would it just be asking for trouble, putting my title out there already? It means so much to me. Do I really want to give it to people to talk about and judge and read into before the rest of the book is ready to go? Perhaps not.

The more general questions aren’t always any easier to deal with. My book doesn’t fit terribly neatly into a genre, and trying to answer the classic ‘What’s it about?’ can be decidedly tricky. I don’t want to say too much or tie myself into anything too specific (after all, you never know when you might need to radically overhaul your plot), nor do I want to give anyone a false impression of what I’m doing. It can be terrifying, putting your ideas out there, and I don’t want people to judge them until they’ve seen them how they’re supposed to be. In the end I often resort to a measly, one-word answer – ‘life’ – because I don’t like to lie, but I feel I have to say something. Unfortunately, judging by the unimpressed, puzzled and slightly bemused looks I’ve received, I suspect it’s not a terribly satisfying answer to hear.

It’s difficult. Very difficult. And of course, as tempting as it can be to keep everything under wraps, feedback is incredibly important – particularly for writers starting out. A select few people are now starting to see glimpses of my work, but I’m still not sure about how much I should be sending round and how many people I should be asking for opinions. It’s my work, and yet it’s not just for me; it’s so private, and yet one day it’ll be so public. I’m hoping it’ll get easier – that I won’t feel quite so uncertain about everything when I’m working on my second, third, fourth and fifth novels (hey, it’s good to be ambitious) – but right now, there seems to be a huge amount of trial and error in what I’m doing. In fact, I imagine this is a tiny bit like how a new parent feels: a little bit out of their depth, not entirely sure whether they’re doing everything right, but hoping – hoping – that it’ll all work out okay.

– Any suggestions/advice? Feel free to comment… I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts!

 

CC Image courtesy of photosteve101 on Flickr

10 Signs You’re Officially a Book Addict

Manic.

Yep, that pretty much sums up this last week. I’ve been so busy with uni work, paid work, packing and travelling that my novel’s barely got a look in, and I’ve now reached the stage where I’m finding it difficult even to string coherent sentences together (not good at the best of times, but even worse when you’re a writer). But I really don’t want to break my blogging streak, so today I’ve decided to cheat a little and go with ‘something I prepared earlier’. Nothing too deep or meaningful, just a bit of fun. Because we all need a bit of fun once in a while.

10 SIGNS YOU’RE OFFICIALLY A BOOK ADDICT

  1. You deliberately cook meals that you can eat one-handed, just so that you’ve always got one free to turn your page.
  2. You’ve missed your stop on public transport before because you were so engrossed in your book—and you didn’t regret it for a second.
  3. When you’re pushed for time, you cut down on sleep before you cut down on reading. (Hey, it’s called prioritising.)
  4. You’re not terribly bothered if you find that you’ve left your phone at home, but if you leave your book at home…Oh. My. GOD.
  5. You take more books on holiday than you do pairs of socks. And yes, they are all necessary.
  6. You’ve bailed on friends before because you’d reached a critical point in your book and couldn’t bear to leave it. DOES HE LIVE? DOES HE DIE? YOU NEED TO KNOW!
  7. You’re closer with your local bookseller than you are with some of your relatives. (Sorry Aunt Maude.)
  8. You have more bookcases than you do any other type of furniture. And you still can’t fit your whole collection on.
  9. You’ve been known to accidentally call a friend by a character’s name. (‘Thanks Hermio- I mean, Hannah.’ *Oops*)
  10. You’re completely baffled when people ask you what your favourite book is. Err, they expect you to choose just one?!

Copyright Shona Wood 2015

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The Joys of Scrivener

In last week’s musings, I mentioned how university work is often rather abstract. Most of it’s very interesting, but it can be hard to see its relevance for everyday life. However, it isn’t always like that. One of my modules this term has been a more practical, writing-based course, and in a recent class my seminar leader gave a piece of advice which has already proven incredibly useful – not only for my study, but also for my own writing pursuits. It was quite simple: download Scrivener.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Scrivener is a computer program marketed as ‘a powerful content-generation tool for writers’. It’s immensely popular, too, and I’m somewhat relieved to be able to say that I had heard the name before. A while back, when I was in the very early stages of this novel, I looked into downloading some sort of writing software, but at the time I’d decided against it. There are so many ‘tools’ out there – books, computer programs, online courses – all promising to be helpful for writers, and I have to admit, I’m rather sceptical about a lot of them. Of course, there are exceptions*, but I suspect a rather large proportion only make money because people want to find a ‘quick fix’ – some sort of magic solution that will suddenly make the task of writing a novel nice and easy. A little bit like the old revision guides, bought in the hope that their mere presence would make you understand everything (when the disappointing reality was that you still had to read the darn things).

No, I decided that I’d be fine with just a bog-standard word processor, and for a long time, I was. But recently, things have definitely been getting trickier. 30,000 words is a lot, and trying to organise everything, navigate between different sections and just keep track of all of it has been becoming more and more of a challenge. So when Scrivener came up in my seminar, I thought maybe it was a sign. I downloaded a free 30-day trial that same afternoon, and already, less than halfway through, I know I’m going to be buying my own license.

At this point, I should probably make it clear that I’m writing this entirely off my own back. I have no connection to Scrivener; I’m just someone who’s found the program helpful. Above all, it’s allowed me to organise my work in a much more practical way. It gives you all manner of different options for dividing up a project, and it gives you the chance to use levels in a way that traditional word processors don’t offer. For something as long and complex as a novel, it’s amazing the difference those things can make. Yes, there are still sections of my work that are a complete mess, but now it’s an organised mess – and trust me, that’s an important distinction. Everything is so much more accessible now and it’s a lot easier not only for me to move around, but also for me to move parts of my work around.

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There are some nice smaller features, too. You can set daily word count targets, or even a total for your entire project so that you can see how you’re making progress. Another useful one is the ‘distraction free’ writing mode, which blocks out the rest of your screen to help you to focus. You can even edit the style of the background, choosing between block colour options or a ‘paper’ effect to get the experience you want. All the little things seem to have been thought of and it’s wonderfully obvious when you use the program that it’s been designed not only for writers, but by writers.

Perhaps what I like most though, is that the whole thing comes across as very honest. It’s upfront about what it’s intended to be (a ‘kind of “writers’ shed”’) as well as what it isn’t (a replacement for a dedicated word processor) and it doesn’t make any ridiculous claims or guarantees about what it’ll do for you. I really appreciate that. If there’s one I’ve come to realise doing this blog, it’s that writing is an incredibly personal thing; just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it’ll work for somebody else. I’ve certainly been finding Scrivener useful though, and if you’re a writer who’s struggling to organise a complicated project, it may be worth giving it a go. It won’t do all of your work for you, but it might make things a little easier to manage, and then you can get back to what’s really important: enjoying the writing itself.

For more info about Scrivener, visit http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php 

*Roz Morris’s wonderful series of ‘Nail Your Novel’ books, being one.

The End is in Sight

Okay, so the end of my novel may still be a fair way off, but in just three weeks’ time, my final (working) term as an undergraduate student will be over. Three years of lectures, seminars, assignments and deadlines are coming to an end. It’s bizarre; it feels like only yesterday it all began.

Letting myself think about life after university is playing havoc with my emotions. One moment I’m incredibly excited; the next, I’m absolutely terrified. For my writing, I’m rather glad it’s nearly finished. I’ve learnt so much over the last three years, I’ve met so many wonderful people and I feel like I’ve come a long way as a person myself, but I am finding it difficult now to stay focused on my studies when I’m so desperate to work on my novel. I know I’ll always have other commitments, there will always be distractions and other things demanding my time, but academic work can be so mentally draining. I didn’t think this week had been too bad for my writing and yet when I look back at what I’ve actually achieved, I suspect I would have made just as much progress had I been working a regular 9-5 job each day.

University can be a bit like living in a bubble, too. You can be studying things that are so complex, so seemingly obscure, that it can be easy to lose touch with the real world. And for writing, that can be a real problem. I’ve said it before, imagination is a wonderful thing. But it seems to me there’s only so much you can do with imagination without having real life experience too. Yes, there is definitely a part of me that can’t wait to be free of university, that feels more than ready to enter the ‘real’ world. At the same time though, another part of me looks ahead and simply sees a huge, gaping void. The idea of being able to do anything can be exhilarating, but I’ve always taken comfort in having control and security, and beyond graduation I have nothing definite mapped out. I’ve thought about it, I have ideas and a rough sort-of plan, but I have nothing fixed, there’s nothing guaranteed, and there’s no sugar-coating it: that uncertainty can be bloody scary.

I know I’ll write – that’s pretty simple. But I don’t have my head in the clouds. I know the statistics for writers’ earnings really aren’t very encouraging, and as much as I’d love to make it as a best-selling novelist, realistically I know that I need to be thinking about jobs. I accept that. Actually, after an event with Hachette last year, I’m rather excited by the thought of working in the publishing industry – particularly in editorial. I’ve always been fascinated by language, and the thought of coming together with other people who are genuinely passionate about books is amazing. It’s such a competitive industry though, and there are still so many things to think about. What jobs/placements/schemes do I apply for? When do I apply for them? What would happen to my own writing if I were to land a demanding role? I can’t imagine a life without writing – it’s a part of me – but how far I’ll end up getting with my own work is far more of a question mark. I’m determined to finish this book, and I hope there’ll be many more (I have so many ideas written down that are just begging to be taken further), but when – or even if – they’ll see the light, I don’t know.

Exciting but scary really does sum it up. Sometimes I wish someone could tell me whether I’m doing the right things, whether I’m making the right choices, but I’m starting to accept that we never really know. We can work hard and try to make things happen but we never really know where we’ll end up. And sometimes, we just have to take a step back and see what life brings. I may not have a set plan but I know what’s important to me, and if I aim for a life with family, friends, writing and reading, hopefully I won’t go too far wrong.

4114167117_461065fe2a_z CC Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley on Flickr

What’s in a Name?

It’s been a rather frustrating week for my novel. I’ve had a reasonable amount of free time, and yet I’ve actually managed to do very little writing. Instead, I’ve spent an awful lot of the last seven days on baby-themed websites, trawling through pastel-hued pages adorned with cutesy, cartoon animals and scrolling through strangely addictive forum threads for parents-to-be. Before anyone starts jumping to conclusions, I don’t have a big announcement to make. No, I’ve just been trying to sort out some of my characters’ names.

Choosing names for characters can be great fun, but it’s certainly not always easy. There are so many possibilities and so many things to consider. On the one hand, I want my characters to have relatively common names – names that are likely to be familiar to readers. Obscure names can work brilliantly, but they can also be alienating, making characters difficult to relate to and difficult to penetrate. If pronunciation isn’t clear, they can even be quite distracting (I read a lot of books by Irish authors and I do occasionally run into problems). But then, it’s only when I start trying to think of nice, common names for my characters (or I start looking through lists of them online) that I realise just how many people I know, and how many names are immediately problematic as a result.

It may sound odd at first, but if I can link a name to several people, there’s not usually too much of an issue. It doesn’t make me any more inclined to feature it in my novel (I don’t particularly want people coming up to me claiming to have recognised themselves) but I’m usually able to consider it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already accepted that the name can fit multiple characters, so I don’t have a problem with throwing one more into the mix. However, when there’s just the one person, it tends to be a lot harder to keep an open mind. Their traits can become so closely entwined with the name that the two end up impossible to separate, and I can’t imagine it ever suiting anybody different.

Of course, there are thousands of names out there. Even considering only the more common choices, I don’t think any of us can claim to know somebody for every single one. Unfortunately, simply discarding those names with which we’re particularly familiar doesn’t always make things much easier.

The problem is, we come into contact with names everywhere – they’re a part of life – and our experience inevitably shapes the way we look at them. We build certain ideas around them, and start to associate certain names with certain attributes. For writers, it’s perhaps not so hard deciding on a name for a brand new character; there’s more flexibility and to some extent, the character can be moulded around it. But when you’re working the other way around and trying to find a name for a character who’s already very much established, it can be immensely difficult. I think the best analogy is one of trying on clothes. On the hanger, things might seem to tick all the necessary boxes, but it doesn’t mean that they’ll fit properly, that they’ll suit the person, or that they’ll feel right – and it’s exactly the same with names. I could quite easily come up with a female, young-ish sounding name, but finding one that works with the character I’ve got in mind is a whole other matter.

These problems aren’t restricted to forenames, either. You might not feel as though you have such strong preferences when it comes to surnames (partly, I suppose, because we don’t normally have much control over them) but as a writer you’ll often need to find something that works with multiple characters. Earlier this week I thought I’d found the perfect surname for one of my lead females. It had been irritating me for a long time and I started to get really quite excited when I made the discovery, but a few minutes later I was back to square one. Why? Because when I went to add it to my character notes, I realised that it would make her brother ‘Charlie Harley’ – and he just didn’t deserve that.

Most of my characters have had their names for a long time now, but I still have a few gaps and it’s getting to the stage where I feel those gaps really need to be filled. It’s not the same, writing with blanks instead of names, and until my characters have their full titles they just don’t feel complete. So I will keep looking, and when I do find the right ones I know it will be wonderfully satisfying. I’m just hoping that it doesn’t take too much longer, (a) because I’d really like to make some progress with the rest of my writing, and (b) because I’m tired of baby-related adverts popping up on the side of my internet browser. 74 nappies for £10.75?! Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.

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CC Image courtesy of SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget on Flickr

On the Move

Have you ever been travelling on a train, speeding nicely towards your destination, only to have it grind to a halt in the middle of nowhere?

If you have (which is certainly pretty likely if you’re in the UK) then you’ll know just how frustrating it can be. Then again, you’ll also know how wonderful it feels when you start moving again. It may not be very quickly – in fact, it’s usually at a fraction of the speed you were going before – but even so, you experience an amazing mix of relief, gratitude and contentment, because you know you’re at least on the move. Once again, your destination’s getting closer.

That’s how I’ve been feeling this week with my writing. Okay, so they may not have been the most  remarkable seven days, but after juddering to a complete stop not so long ago, it’s just felt nice to be moving again. To be making progress.

I’ve ended up taking a very different approach this week, though not exactly through choice. Due to impending deadlines university work has had to be my top priority and it hasn’t been leaving me with a huge amount of time – or a huge amount of brain power. I’ve been finding myself too mentally drained to write last thing in the evening, but too stressed to give up huge chunks of my days elsewhere. As a result, my writing’s ended up being squashed into tiny snippets of time. Whenever I’ve had an odd few minutes to spare – five minutes before a lecture, ten minutes before dinner – I’ve been resisting the urge to go to Facebook or ASOS or Youtube and turning to my novel instead. Most of the time I haven’t been going with any real plan, I’ve simply been opening the document hoping that I can make some sort of progress and thus avoid having to declare another failed week. But actually, it’s amazing how worthwhile those tiny sessions have been.

I’ve often heard it said that you shouldn’t write ‘aimlessly’; you shouldn’t approach your work without a direction, without having a clear idea in your head of what you’re trying to achieve. I can certainly see the logic in that advice. Once you’ve got a reasonably substantial piece of writing, it’s far too easy to spend all your time simply tweaking things, making tiny changes that don’t really make much of a difference and never making any significant progress. Deciding on a specific target – maybe a scene you want to complete, or a chapter you want to finish – can definitely help you to make the most of your time. On the other hand, it seems a more carefree approach can sometimes prove rather beneficial.

Dipping in and out of my novel this week with no set focus has been wonderfully refreshing. I’ve been noticing things that I hadn’t appreciated before – repetition of certain phrases, bits of dialogue that don’t sound natural – and because I’ve only been spending short periods of time with my writing, I haven’t had long enough to overthink things. I’ve been following my instincts, seeing how my mind reacts to the text rather than trying to force things, and it’s led to far more than just editing. Skimming through sections, I’ve found scenes expanding and gaps miraculously filling themselves, the words just popping into my head. Okay, so I’ve only been adding odd sentences here and there, I haven’t been getting down huge chunks of sparkling new content, but it’s all felt so natural – and I feel like it’s made a real difference.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that such a random, bitty approach would be a good long-term strategy. I’m a huge believer in setting goals and targets, and I think it would take a hell of a long time for me to finish this book if I never worked in a more disciplined fashion. But these little sessions certainly haven’t been a waste of time, and given the stress of this last week, I’m proud that I’ve managed to get my writing going again. Now I’ve just got to keep it going and try to build up a little more momentum. Yep, then I’ll be well on my way.

(Final destination: Publication)

CC Image courtesy of Ingy The Wingy on Flickr

Fail.

In terms of writing, this last week has been a complete and utter fail. I’m not even going to give a word count – it’s just too depressing. But hiccups happen. Nobody’s perfect (that’s what people keep telling me, anyway) so I figure the best thing I can do is just accept that it’s done and try to make a real effort to turn things around.

In my last post, I talked a bit about the difficulties of finding time to write. Time certainly hasn’t been on my side this week. University work is now demanding a huge amount of attention and these last few days I’ve had the added joy of a cold draining my energy reserves and making every task take twice as long as it should. But whilst I certainly wouldn’t say no to a few more hours in the day, running out of time isn’t always the issue. No, some days, the problem is that by the time I’ve finished doing all the other things I need to do, I physically can’t spend another minute staring at a computer screen.

You’re probably thinking that I’m being ridiculous. I mean, you don’t have to use a computer to write, do you? What about using (*gasp*) a pen and paper? It’s not such a crazy idea. Even in this digital age, lots of writers still prefer pen and paper and only move onto a computer when they absolutely have to. And that’s fine. I’m just not one of them.

It’s not that I’m a technology addict. I’ve only recently acquired a smartphone, I’m certainly not glued to it and, unlike many students I don’t find that the absence of an internet connection brings on a panic attack. But even so, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t rely on technology for a lot of things and whether I like it or not, writing is one of them.

It’s a shame, really – not least because I adore stationery. I already have some gorgeous pens and notebooks* and I would love to have an excuse to go out and buy some more. It would be so much easier, too, being able to carry around a little notebook rather a laptop that I have to be careful not to drop, or sit on, or advertise to thieves. But whilst I can make the odd note here and there on paper, I find it immensely difficult to write anything substantial without the aid of a computer.

One of the main reasons is that that I write in a decidedly disjointed fashion. It doesn’t matter how long I spend trying to plan something out, I inevitably end up changing my mind once I get going, thinking of more things and wanting to make alterations. When I’m using a computer, that’s not a problem. In fact, using a computer lets me embrace my bitty style of writing. I can jump around as ideas come to me, I can leave gaps where I know I want to include other things and I can cut and paste and drag to my heart’s content. Realistically, pen and paper just doesn’t give me that freedom.

The other problem (and it can be a big problem) is that I’m a perfectionist. Deep down, I know that books don’t just pop out of authors perfectly formed (yes, I am picturing book-babies), but I still find it hard to write freely on paper. It feels so much more real than writing in a Word document and things seem so much more exposed. I feel like I have to get everything right first time and because I’m so scared of making ‘mistakes’, of writing something that might sound ‘silly’, I can end up not getting anywhere at all. On a computer I don’t have that problem. On a computer I can write and write without worrying that it might be a load of rubbish, because I know that all I need to do is press a couple of buttons and I can make everything vanish. And no one would ever know.

I’d like to think that one day I’ll be able to do more of my writing on paper. I love having a pen in my hand and I really don’t like how reliant we’re all becoming on technology. But at the same time, I feel like computers allow me to do so much more with my writing. I feel like they’re helping me to reach my full potential, and that’s got to be a good thing. I just wish there weren’t quite so many other tasks that had to be done in front of a screen, too.

*Those are the paper ones as opposed to the electronic ones. Daft English language.

Writing Tools

CC Image courtesy of Pete O’Shea on Flickr

When to Write?

When I was younger, I thought that being a ‘writer’ would involve spending all day… well… writing. It just seemed logical. But now that I’m older and wiser (well, a little) I know that the world isn’t always a logical place. And it turns out that there are very few writers who are lucky enough to be able to write all day long.

Now, I may not currently have a 9-5 job ruling my weekdays, but I am at university, and contrary to popular belief, there’s actually still a fair amount of work involved in getting a decent degree. So that leaves me with the same conundrum as pretty much every other aspiring author: when do I squeeze in my writing?

It’s a question that’s asked a lot in the writing community and opinions vary hugely, but one of the most popular views seems to be that first thing in the morning is the way to go. You set your alarm an hour or so early, bash out your quota of words (most likely with the aid of a very strong coffee) and then start your working day knowing that you’ve already done the most important thing – made some progress with your book.

I think this is a great idea. It seems smart and practical and perfect for me, because unlike most students, I am definitely a morning person – I just don’t do late nights. But actually, I’ve tried the whole ‘writing early in the morning’ thing and I haven’t had very much success with it. If it’s university work I’m swamped with then yes, I can – and do – get up early to try to make progress, but when it comes to writing my novel, it just doesn’t seem to work.

During term-time, I’m sure one of the main reasons is the pressure of academic deadlines. As committed as I am to my book, the self-imposed deadline I have for its completion just doesn’t carry the same threat as those which come with my university assignments, and I find it very hard to focus on my writing when I know that I’ve got other work that I have to get done. But it can’t be just that, because even in the holidays, when I’m wonderfully free of academic assignments, I still find it difficult to write first thing in the morning. It’s my most productive time for so many other things, so why should writing be any different? I’ve pondered it a lot and I’m still not entirely sure. The only possibility I’ve come up with is that maybe I simply need a little time to connect with the world.

It may sound like a terrible cliché, but every day of life is an experience. Every single day brings events, thoughts, conversations, emotions, and even when I don’t feel like anything remarkable has happened, I always end up with a head that’s crammed full of stuff – stuff that’s just begging to be explored in words. I’m not saying that everything I write is simply plucked from my life – not at all. Imagination is a wonderful thing. But having some contact with the real world definitely seems to help me to get going, and lately I’ve found myself doing an awful lot of my writing last thing in the evening. I try not to stay up too late (I’m pretty grouchy when I don’t get enough sleep), but I can’t always help it. I find myself naturally reflecting on my day and reliving moments – a person’s expression, a snippet of speech, a flash of emotion – and then I start writing and I just can’t stop.

A year or so ago, if you’d asked me whether I was an early bird or a night owl, I would have said ‘early bird’ without hesitation. Now? Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps I’m becoming a strange sort of hybrid. I don’t suppose it matters, in any case. The only thing that really matters is that I keep getting the words down somehow.

Word count as of 23rd Feb: 32,704

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CC Image courtesy of vince42 on Flickr

When Puppets Become People

Writing fiction is a curious business. At times, it can make you feel extraordinarily powerful – particularly at the start of a project. After all, you’re in charge of creating a whole new world! You’re the one choosing the people, the places, the events. You’re the one who has the final say on the colour of X’s hair and the breed of Y’s dog and the exact time at which Z likes to have his morning coffee. Every little thing in in your hands, and it’s really rather exhilarating.

What I’m starting to realise though, is that you don’t necessarily stay feeling quite so omnipotent. I’ve made some really good progress with my novel this week. I’ve now passed 30,000 words and there were times when I just couldn’t get the sentences down quickly enough (and my typing’s pretty good, too). But what’s perhaps slightly strange is that for a lot of the time, I didn’t actually feel as though I was the one making the decisions.

When I first started writing, my characters were like bare, crudely cut wooden puppets. They had rough shapes, yes, but they weren’t clearly defined, and they were still very much mine to do what I wanted with. But now, now they’re so much more. Now they’re people with their very own features, their very own voices, and inside, their very own minds. I know what they’re like, what they would say and what they would do – as well as what they wouldn’t – and there’s only so much I can manipulate them without them starting to resist. I feel like I’ve given each one a little bit of my power and although I know roughly the direction in which my story is headed, there’s an element of uncertainty, too. A sense that my characters might surprise me or end up taking me down paths I hadn’t originally planned.

I realise that to many people this might sound ludicrous. After all, these are fictitious characters in a fictitious world – a world that I created! How can I not be in control? It’s certainly true that I’m not powerless. I’ll always be able to change things and the control freak in me is immensely glad about that. But at the same time, it’s definitely no longer as simple as ‘doing whatever I like’, and more and more often I’m finding myself letting my characters lead me. I’m waiting for them to speak rather than putting words in their mouths, letting them act rather than trying to be a puppeteer. I’ll admit, it wasn’t something I anticipated when I first started out, but if possible, I think it’s making the process of writing a book even more exciting. It really does feel like I’m bringing a world to life, and you know what? It’s a pretty incredible feeling.