Friday, 4 July 2014

Why I'm not telling anyone I'm writing a novel

I remember very clearly signing up to Nanowrimo for the first time. I was excited, eager and had absolutely no idea what I was going to write. But I'd committed to the process - so I had to get my act together and start writing and that's exactly what I did. 30 days later, I had just over 56,000 words on screen, I got the certificate, wore the t-shirt and boy was I proud of myself!

The other thing I did was tell everyone I knew that I was writing a book. I broadcast it to friends near and far, to family and of course posted about it on Facebook too. Soon everyone was excited on my behalf. I was buzzing from the attention of it all. This was new and suddenly I was interesting. People had something they could always talk to me about - my novel. How was it progressing? What's it about? When would it be finished? Self-publish or try and get an agent? There were so many questions and it spurred me on, gave me encouragement and all was generally good while I was still writing.

Nano was a great experience, but I realised that actually I didn't really know much about writing and so I read books, learned more, started and contributed regularly to a creative writing group, learned some more, went on a couple of one day courses and learned some more and at the same time, I continued to read other people's work to see how they did it. That was all great, but it made me realise that my initial Nanowrimo efforts really weren't that good. Yes it was 56,000 words but those words weren't something others would want to read. I knew that because even I didn't want to read them :-)

There were lots of things I hadn't known about, which now I do and these needed to be incorporated into my book. And so on I went. I did character interviews, developed my dialogue skills, realised that I needed more conflict and I learnt about show rather than tell. All this was great, but it was around this time that I started to get in my own way and the novel simply wasn't progressing. Many notes were made in journals, post it notes were stuck up, things were downloaded from the Internet and it looked like I was really busy writing my book. But I wasn't. I was enchanted by this new world. Lots of distractions but not much actual writing going on. And still others asked how it was going and I was able to comment about my progress and discuss this new world I was in.

After that I suffered from lots of mind issues. I felt guilty about spending time on it, particularly as I wasn't getting any further. I questioned whether I was good enough. I challenged the fact that I'd spent so much time on it and hadn't crossed the finishline. I was concerned that while I was doing this, I wasn't earning money from other things. I wondered whether it was all a pipe dream and I was just another of those people who started a novel, never to finish it. I let my inner critic run around wildly in my head and didn't rein her in

Actually I was a bit of a mess and I still had this unfinished novel and people still asked me how it was going. I avoided their questions, used diversion tactics and put the focus on them rather than me, because after all who wants to talk about guilt, lack of drive and an unfinished project.

And then I simply stopped writing it.

And I stopped writing it for a whole year and people stopped asking me about it.

But it seems this itch won't go away and needs scratching, so a year on it's back up on screen. Will I write it? I'm not sure. I may well reach exactly the same sticking point or a completely new one. I don't know yet. All I know is that this time I'm keeping quiet about it (apart from you guys reading this of course). But I know you can keep a secret can't you, so all is well.


8 comments:

  1. Angela, I first saw the tidbit about this on Google+ and from that knew I had to stop in and give it a read. It is so interesting to read this post. I'm very happy for you that you've gotten back to your novel. I do the same thing, even blogging about my novel in-progress or when it's just an idea. Then, I put it on the back burner. I feel like the novel stasher. My soon-to-be published novel needs a good look over and edit but I've been procrastinating terribly all week. My new novel has been waiting eagerly for my attention for the past two weeks. It is a challenge, isn't it? I'm not sure whether or not telling people about the WIP helps by lending some accountability or hurts.

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    1. Hi Stephanie. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes it's a tricky one. I do share with an online writing community that I am part of and I have found these people to be hugely encouraging and supportive plus they are in the same boat as me so know how it feels. Having this support also means that I've not had to broadcast my plans to others as I'm getting accountability and great support online. I do hope that you get to your soon to be published novel. Finishing is a wonderful feeling I'm sure, although I've not experienced it personally other than through a non-fiction e-book and some short stories that I've submitted to competitions.

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  2. Angela, when I started working on my first novel, I slap dashed my way into the experience. It seems SOooo easy from the outside to write a novel as if writers just exude "novel" from every orifice. I finished mine, but it's such a mess, I haven't touched since (same as you) and am now working on a new one. But that itch, yes, that itch. So here I am on our great American holiday scratching that itch…AGAIN, the learning curve a little less steep than I remember it being in April.

    Best of luck to you on your journey.

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    1. Thank you Tonia. Yes, I definitely feel I'm learning and growing which is a good thing, but sometime I get so hung up on that, that I stop writing. Arrgghhhh!! I definitely could write a book on procrastination strategies to share with others...

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  3. I can't believe how much we have in common - all except the fact that I've never told anyone I was going to write a book. That's because I didn't really believe I could. This time around, that's my plan; but I'm sure not telling anyone. I'm going to do my best to work through the many distractions that vie for my attention. I'm thankful for people like you who keep me encouraged on this path of writing.

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  4. Hi Shelley. Many thanks for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. Just to let you know I believe you can do it and I'm glad to hear that you're going for it. Perhaps we can encourage one another? Yes those distractions are hard to escape, although it seems that I'm even happy to do the ironing instead of sitting down to write. Note to self, must work on commitment issues :-) Good luck with your book. I look forward to hearing more about it.

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  5. Hi Angela.
    I found your blog on the list on the A to Z site and really enjoyed reading your post. I like your style ^_^
    I'm working on a trilogy project and have been working on it for the past four years, starting with NaNo myself. I finished the trilogy twice (the first draft and the first revision) and now I'm trying to polish the first novel so to let it out in the world.
    People know I write, I don't keep it a secret, but I seldom speak about it because... well, nobody seem to care. That's why I like my online writing community. That's where I share my passion. So, we do have something in common ;-)

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    1. Hi Sarah, Many thanks for stopping by and thanks also for your kind words. I'm glad to hear about your project - sounds very exciting and you're way way ahead of me having finished and revised your first drafts. Oh what a joy it would be to say that I was at that point. Perhaps you've motivated me to put my bottom on the seat and my fingers on the keyboard and get going... I love the online writing communities too. They're so supportive and in fact next week, I'm off to meet two people from America who are here in England on a writing related trip. I'm really looking forward to that and being able to talk about writing to my heart's content. I'm also a member of a local writing group that I helped to set up and that's been very enjoyable too. Anyway I'm rambling on now. Good luck with your writing and btw I love your site. I felt like I was stepping back in time.

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