Friday, 16 November 2012

Pot Novel! (Just add words)

A few weeks ago an interesting looking supplement fell out of The Guardian. It was called 'How to write a book in 30 days.'  Having spent well over a year writing my own first novel, I snatched it open.   The title, it has to be said, was a bit of a con.  On reading the supplement it became clear that it wasn't a manual in how to write an actual book in 30 days, it was a guide to writing a 30 day plan for writing a book.  The final page merrily asserts that once the 30 day plan is complete, 'Only then, finally, is it time to start writing the book itself.'  Hmmm.

Everybody is anxious for a quick route to writing a novel but there really isn't one.  It takes as long as it takes and there are no real short cuts.  Some writers spend months, even years, thinking about their novel, letting ideas and characters percolate.  Other writers move into the writing process a lot quicker and prefer to work their ideas out practically, on the page.
Last year, I met the award-winning novelist Cynan Jones who blithely informed me that he'd written his first novel, The Long Dry (winner of the Betty Trask Award) in two weeks!  It's a very short novel - but it's still an astonishing feat.  I'd love to be able to tell you that his writing is careless and obviously rushed, but it's actually a stunning novel; beautifully written, which wholly deserves the acclaim that it received.

All writers go through a different writing process.  That's why I'm wary of self help books promising writing miracles.  There's no one correct way to go about it.  What works for one writer often creatively stifles another.  You may be aware that November is 'National Novel Writing Month'. ( ) Writers who sign up, will attempt to write a 50,000 novel in a month.  This is an actual novel, not a plan for a novel as above.  Some writers will find this notion profoundly unsettling, it just wouldn't work for them.  But others may find that it gives them the kick start they need to get cracking on the novel they've been planning for years.  Will any of these novels be any good?  Only time will tell.  But one thing is certain: you may have an idea for novel but until you start writing, it's only an idea.  Until you have words on a page you have nothing.  Maybe it's time to write those ideas down.  Okay, so maybe you won't finish it in a month - but you'll make a start.  So go on - get cracking!

Paula Currie

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