Updated: Oct 30, 2020
I woke up one morning with a novel in my head so this is literally about my journey to realising a dream and publishing my debut novel. I hope this might inspire you too.
This account of my own experiences is written in a framework ‘How to write a novel and get it published in 14 easy steps and refers to same titled WikiHow article which looked well thought out and systematic. I’m a sucker for instructions with 'easy steps' so this is my take on the so called EASY steps.
‘ Step 1. Begin forming ideas ’
Write some ideas down, follow some but ‘be cautious about which ideas you do write down. Ask yourself, if you didn’t write this idea down, would it be good enough to remember tomorrow?’ and then start writing.
Okay, so I woke up with an idea and I did grab a notebook to start mapping out the story that was buzzing through my mind. I scribbled the whole thing down in four days and I never imagined it could be so easy. I even started thinking about the sequel! Little did I know what was ahead and maybe that was a good thing!
‘ Step 2. Don’t worry about errors; you can correct your writing later ‘
The Wikihow article says, ‘you get the best stories by continuing on and not… obsessing over every little error. If you check your errors then you will lose the flow’ – you need to build your world and flesh out your characters (and create characters, who your readers will care about).
I definitely did this, I was consumed by the story which seemed to write itself and I didn’t review it at all. I haven’t written creatively since school – I've compiled hundreds of business letters and many emails but writing about something so emotive was a revelation. I wrote and I cried and I never expected how much emotion I could feel about the scenarios I had created for my characters. Inevitably, I was drawing on fifty year’s of my own life experiences.
I am a positive soul who makes the most of things. Someone who shrugs her shoulders when she is hurt and thinks I must learn from that mistake. I only try to deal with the things I can do something about – the past has happened so get on with today. Years and years of a habit which I formed to protect myself, and writing my novel bubbled raw and buried emotions to the surface – writing about feelings made me face some uncomfortable and difficult truths of my own but I kept writing and I didn’t look for errors. This is the great advice – thank goodness, I didn’t look at what I had written before I finished getting it all down because if I had, I would have lost all hope! — and I’ll talk about this later.
‘Step 3. Set daily writing goals’
The article says that you shouldn’t limit how much you write in a day but set a minimum because this will help you focus.
This was the crux of my journey – the moment when I started to think about actually typing everything up. What happened when I began writing makes me feel uncomfortable but I will tell you about my experience because it's what actually happened and perhaps you’ve been in the same situation?
I kept my sudden desire to write a secret from my darling husband – I don’t keep secrets from him – he is the most thoughtful and understanding person I know, yet I had spent every spare moment of four whole days scribbling down all my thoughts and I had not told Paul what I was doing or thinking – maybe, I wanted to see if the story was feasible, maybe, I was frightened that if I discussed it with anyone, I would lose the thread like poor Coleridge interrupted by ‘the man from Porlock,’ (who he later blamed for the untimely end of his poem, Kubla Khan,) or perhaps I was frightened that I would have to explain my story, when I wasn’t really certain exactly what it was? All I can say is that I did write secretly and when I eventually showed my notebook to Paul, he was hurt – he couldn’t understand how I could do something that was obviously so important to me without telling him. But even so, he was completely supportive and here is the crux. Like so many other people we live just to our means – the next set of wages just covers our bills and me spending time writing was going to leave us short – I told Paul that I reckoned I could get all my scribblings typed up in a month of solid effort and I felt that I desperately needed clear time to do this – uninterrupted by working at my usual self-employed job.
My novel has come about for one reason only and that is because my husband willingly gave me a whole month of sheer indulgence with something that will probably never bring in any money – and while I wrote Paul worked and worked to try and make up for the lost income.
My writing was made harder because I knew how much pressure I was putting on Paul but in a way that kept me focused – I'd been given a precious month and I was going to use it carefully. I treated writing like a job and I have never worked so may hours either. It seemed every moment of that month was spent writing, churning over my notes and adapting the story to make it better. A month turned into three months and the hangover of Paul working extra hours and weekends is still with us but he never complains and is only ever supportive. I have neglected everything, not just Paul, but he has never once said that this is selfish – he just wants me to achieve what I set out to do.
The WikiHow article talks about setting achievable goals of say 300 words a day and that is what I could have done but it must be difficult to keep the flow and impetus going. I know that I want to continue writing and this will be the way the sequel to my novel will have to be written – in stolen moments from each day, getting up early and writing into the evenings and oh! how hard it will be, fitting my writing into our busy lives – but at a rate of 300 words a day, a 100,000 word novel will take a year – but it’s not a year because writing it up is only step 3 – so many people talk of seven years to complete their first novel and I understand why – I'm privileged to have had this opportunity and I discuss step four is in the second of these articles...