This is a short progress report to mark yet another milestone in my writing journey.
Last November, I decided and then undecided to write a novel as part of the NaMoWriMo. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I launched into the planning stages with enthusiasm. But I quickly bogged down in my ignorance of how to write fiction. This meant an abrupt change of plans.
First of course, I had to figure out what a novel was and how it was structured. In my world of professional non-fiction writing, it helps to know what you’re doing and where you’re going before laying down a bunch of words. I assumed this was true of writing a novel as well.
Turns out there’s an entire range of opinions on this among novel writers. Some who simply “launch” and start writing. Some who outline meticulously. Some who write about characters and believe if you have a great character, you have a great story. Some who write about stories and don’t worry about characters. In short, there’s a theory out there for ever starting writer on which to hang a hat and I suspect most beginners will gravitate to whatever is most comfortable for them.
I know I did. I had already done some reading about stories in films by skimming Robert McKee’s classic book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting and I assumed books had a similar structure. Turns out the successful ones do. So I started reading about story structure in novels and how they were put together. I even started doing some outlining and deleting, outlining and deleting and even outlining and deleting of my own.
As an aside, understanding the story process is very much like being able to read a road map. Understanding the concept is similar to using the road map to find and get to one particular location on that map.
What I’ve done between last November and now is learn to read a road map and in another day or two, I’ll get the feedback on whether I’ve learned how to apply it (or whether I’m back to the drawing board) It’s like Christmas exams. (and yeah, I’m a bit nervous about the results)
But the important thing is that I delivered the first phase of this project. In Seth Godin’s terms, “I shipped”.
And in my creative world, getting it out the door is the first step.