20 Things I’ve Learnt Whilst Writing My Novel

Can I be honest? Can I be honest?!

(I’m going to be honest)

I should be writing my novel right now but…I haven’t blogged in a while. And I honestly feel like procrastinating.

So I haven’t posted any poems or short stories on my blog for what feels like AGES because I have been busy writing my novel. For simplification’s sake, it’s a supernatural thriller for adults (possibly teens). However, I don’t like to neglect my blog. It makes me feel like I’m cheating all the people that follow it and I really miss updating this blog. This blog is my baby ❤

So HERE IS A BLOGPOST about what I’ve learnt whilst I’ve been writing this novel. A small part of me thought, ‘Hey, isn’t this kind of pretentious? Shouldn’t you wait until you’ve 100% finished writing your novel?’ And then the rest of me thought, ‘Shut up. If you want to write, you should write.’ (Yes, I have arguments with myself. Why do you think I’m a writer?!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy/its helpful/its a good procrastination tool for whatever it is you’re meant to be doing now =) And then hopefully if you’re working on any type of literature, it gives you an idea of what you’re headed for.

1) No two novels are the same 

When I began this particular novel in the beginning of 2015, I remember thinking: ‘Well my last novel was 74,000 words. I can write something like that again – shouldn’t take too long to do.’  

I was so wrong.

I’m currently over 90,000 words and the novel is still going. I’m glad nobody warned me though. If I’d been warned, maybe I wouldn’t have embarked on this supernatural thriller journey.

No two novels are the same and this is probably due to a number of factors such as mental maturity and genre, amongst others.

I wrote my first novel at 16. It’s on this blog if you care to find it but I am perfectly content if you don’t because it’s not…not that fabulous. Why? Because I was a sixteen year old trying to write about the world. A world that I had yet to see or even understand from an adult’s viewpoint. I don’t begrudge myself those 70,000 odd words, but I do read it back with the knowledge that I was young – even though I thought I wasn’t – and that it’s not the best I can do.

And then there’s genre. The novel I’m working on now is not a thriller/crime like my last one. It’s a fantasy novel. Many fantasy novels are known for being epically long. The story I am telling is so long and encompasses so many things that there have been several times I’ve just lain on my bed, stared at the ceiling and thought, WHY?! WHY AM I DOING THIS?!

2) You’ll probably have to drastically reduce your social life 

To write a lot, consistently, every day, you’ve got to cut back on the partying. To be honest, social ventures become a reward. You hit another 10k? Cool, go out for that thirty minute coffee date.

It doesn’t have to be that intense, to be honest. But – yeah.

3) PRE-PREPARE your summary 

Because if I had a penny for every time somebody said ‘What’s your novel about?’ and I responded with ‘uh….’

I would be rich enough to ressurect Shakespeare and get him to write it for me.

5) Writers don’t get a break 

The fictional world is CONSTANTLY going around in my head. Even if I’m walking to the corner shop, I am thinking about what to include, which chapter is coming next, etc…

I feel like I’m obsessed with this novel. Probably because I am. It’s a good thing – but it’s strange at the same time. It’s strange to have an all-consuming to urge to write ALL.THE.TIME.

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

George Orwell

And while I think our friend Orwell may have been writing with a touch of the dramatic, I will no longer refute that writing a book is “exhausting” or ocassionally “painful” or that sometimes the desire to write FEELS akin to being ill in the head. I’ve suffered from a couple of mental illnesses in my time and what always struck me was how consuming they were. A mental illness literally takes over your mind until you are thinking of nothing but that. (Mine did, anyway.)

That’s how writing sometimes feels. Only it’s not torturous. (Ish)

I’ll write on the train, or in my bed, or at my desk, or whilst I’m walking. I’ll compose in the shower, or on a five minute walk to town, or while I’m eating dinner, or…

Almost every waking second is spent in an alternate universe. Is that healthy?

6) Sometimes you’ll have to force yourself to write 

The fact that I’ve managed to make myself write every single day for the past two months (give or take a few days) makes me proud. Prior to this year, I had NEVER EVER done this before.

This summer, writing has become essential to me. If I miss a day without PREPLANNING it, I will get pretty frustrated and it’ll be at the back of my mind that I have to work on my novel.

7) You will have fights with your characters…and you will lose 

I was really happy because I finally reached the chapter in which I thought my two protagonists were going to finally confess their love and sleep together.

Apparently they thought that was the perfect time to have a huge argument. I’m still not over that.

8) My internet search history is terrifying 

google

It’s for research, I promise.

You will learn a lot though. Because even though I’m writing about a new world, it’s helpful to first understand the laws of this particular world. So far I’ve learnt things about:

  • Historical rebel groups
  • swordfighting
  • water clocks (I didn’t even know these were a thing prior to beginning this novel)
  •  torture techniques
  • Prophecies
  • Horse riding

And I’ve realised that learning scientific facts, computing facts, historical facts, etc. are all very valuable, regardless of genre.

9) Cups of tea will replace food

And then those cups of tea will go cold because I’m too busy writing. And then I want to cry.

10)Procrastination  

I was always good at procrastination but now I find myself surpassing all my original methods. I RUN to procrastinate. Do you know how desperate you have to be to go RUNNING as a method of procrastination?!

11) Dance parties are great

See number 10.

12) Sleep is not a thing

1am? Well this seems like a GREAT TIME for a new fictional location and/or character arc and/or scene that YOU HAVE TO WRITE DOWN NOW to come into mind.

Seriously, 1am is such a GOOD TIME for inspiration. And this inspiration will tide you over till about 3am which is when the SECOND WAVE OF INSPIRATION hits. So essentially I sleep at 5am now.

13) Staying away from social media is good

I wrote 30K words in the two weeks I was away from facebook.

True story.

14) My laziness – 0. Worldbuilding – 1. 

I have to admit – when I began this novel,  a small, secret part of me was excited because it WASN’T a crime novel. I love crime novels. Crime has been my favourite genre for years. And I thought, ‘oooh this supernatural stuff will be cool because I won’t have to do as much research.’ 

I was so wrong.

So, so wrong.

If anything, the research has been more time-consuming.

Worldbuilding is fun. Sometimes. You can get lost in a whole new world (a new fantastic point of view). Other times you realise that you spent about three hours worldbuilding for a detail that is only in your novel for a single sentence or a chapter. WHY.

* If you didn’t catch on to the Disney reference, I’m ashamed of you.

15) There is so much contrasting advice out there so just do you 🙂 

‘Write what you know’ vs. ‘Don’t write what you know.’ 

‘Plan your story’ vs ‘Don’t plan it, let it flow naturally.’

Honestly, just pick your top ten pieces of advice that resonate with you and rock on.

16) A part of me wants to bring Hemingway back to life just so I can kill him myself

I cannot tell you the amount of times I am skimming the internet for helpful advice and I come across the whole: ‘There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.’ – Hemingway

SHUT UP HEMINGWAY, is exactly what I internally scream every time I come across this. It makes me bitter because I usually come across it at a time I am exhausted from writing. And yet, for some reason, Neil Gaimain’s ‘Put one word in front of another’ irks me much less. What can I say? I am a strange child.

16) Muse is just a synonym for wine 

Where there is wine, there is inspiration. Enough said.

“Write drunk, edit sober.”

^ Now THAT’S a Hemingway quote I can get behind!

drink

17) It is entirely possible to sit for an entire day and write 5,000 words. 

This might seem like a lot but I can assure you that after 10 hours of sitting in the same position, you feel like you deserve at least 10,000 words. In fact, you feel as though the novel should be finished.

18) Self-doubt is most definitely a thing 

I’ve always been a pretty confident writer. Not pretentious or obnoxious or belligerent or arrogant. Just…confident.

When I was younger I never thought I was a bad writer. But children are super secure in their own abilities (I often think children have the best mentalities, but that’s for another blogpost) and believe they can do anything.

I can honestly say that the past few days have been the most challenging in terms of self-doubt in my ENTIRE WRITING CAREER. (I’m only twenty, so it’s not like it’s been an exceedingly long career, but still). I recently found myself thinking: ‘What if nobody like this?’ And it really freaked me out.

But that is completely unrealistic. It’s actually impossible to write a story that NOBODY will like. My friend’s response to this irrational fear was, ‘But what if they love it?’ 

19) It’s okay to get emotional over particular characters 

True story: I had to kill off a character. It was integral to the plot. Yet every time I thought of killing him off I felt this horrible pain in my chest. Eventually I was only a chapter or two away from the inevitable death scene, and I dragged these chapters out just to avoid killing him off.

Help.

20) Writing is like acting 

To discover who a character truly is, to get inside their mind and see things from their perspective…that to me, is writing. And that, to me, is acting. Perhaps this is why there are so many writers-cross-actors-cross-directors.

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3 thoughts on “20 Things I’ve Learnt Whilst Writing My Novel

  1. I feel this in so many levels it’s not even funny. I myself have been planning a fantasy story and the world building itself has taken minths to the point I haven’t even started the actual novel yet. Oh, well. I guess procrastination that still somehow contributes towards the novel is not as bad as doing absolutely nothing related to it hehe 🙈

  2. Hahaha! I’m glad you can relate! Just think – It took JK Rowling five years to fully worldbuild Harry Potter. (I hope that makes you feel better, not worse? haha) But it’s totally fine. I took a day out of my writing schedule to have an entire twenty four hours to worldbuild. It was great and worth it in the long run. Do start writing though – some things will come to you as you write! :’)

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