Over the summer break, I managed to complete my first draft of my first ever novel. Now that is saying something. For one, that has been a dream of mine for a long time and I have achieved it. Two, I have never written anything as long as this in my life. At just over 34,000 words, it is still a little shorter than I want it to be but I’m just a bit excited. I have completed the first draft of a novel! I know it’s only a first draft and the hard work has yet to really begin, but it is still a milestone in that I have actually achieved what so many people only wish to achieve and never do.
I think what really surprised me was how much I learnt about myself as well as the writing process as I worked on the first draft. So here goes on what I learnt. Maybe you’ve discovered some of these if you have written a novel.
- I learnt I didn’t know how to start my novel.
I had completed my Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing in the middle of 2018. Whilst my course touched on narratives and fiction, it didn’t really give me a clue as to how to go about starting a novel. I had listened to podcasts and spent a lot of time on Pinterest but still didn’t know how to start. After a bit of time Googling, I discovered Randy Ingerman’s book ‘How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method’ which I downloaded from Amazon. I found this book incredibly useful for getting started.
2. I learnt that it was helpful to have a ‘character bible.’
A character bible is where all the bitsy (but useful) details about the characters get recorded so that when you want to describe character X’s eyes, they don’t change from brown to blue within a few pages.
It was also useful to have a detailed outline of where my story was heading before I started. I guess I’m not a pantser!
3. I learnt that I needed to cast threads forward and make links backwards.
Yep, I have read books where things come out of the blue and it is like ‘I didn’t see that coming!’ Some people would call it foreshadowing. It’s including details that help to prepare the reader for what is coming. Making links backwards, I think, is also very rewarding for the reader. It provides a sense of ‘That makes sense. Yes, I can see how and why the character would do it like this.’
4. I learnt that being a beta-reader is really helpful when you are a writer. (And it helps out a fellow writer.)
I had the honour of being a beta-reader to someone else over the January holidays. The manuscript was for middle-grade readers, so similar in some ways to the audience that I am currently writing for. I found the advice I was giving the other writer, I was filing away in my brain for when I was working on my draft. I would thoroughly recommend being a beta-reader if you are a writer. I learnt a lot.
5. I learnt that I had to work through a lot of fear.
I discovered t here is a constant fear when writing. Sometimes I manage to overcome it and some days it gets the better of me and I struggle to write anything. The fear comes from ‘What if I am not good enough?’ ‘What if no one wants to publish my book?’ Or even funnier, ‘What if they do want to publish my book?’ Sometimes you just have to get over yourself and just write. You can’t edit what isn’t on the page. You also can’t submit a story for publishing that isn’t written down. So just sit down and write.
6. I learnt that there is still so much to learn.
I enjoy learning. I think I would be bored if I knew everything about writing (or teaching or being a parent) at this point in my life. I look forward to finding out what else I can to make my writing better.