Starting That Novel… (Feel The Fear!)

image courtesy of Microsoft Office Clip art

Writing Buddy Sally Jenkins and I went to novelist Martin Davies’ ‘Novel Writing Starter Kit’ in lovely Mackworth library in Derby yesterday and had a really enjoyable time.

I’m sure Sally will be writing about it over on her blog too, but here’s (some!) of what I learned from the day:

1. Writing is a habit. The more you do it, the easier it gets (let’s face it – we all know that really, but it’s nice to be reminded every now and again)

2. All the things that stop you from writing a novel, boil down, in the main, to one word: FEAR

Fear of it all being a waste of time; fear that no-one will want to publish it; fear that no-one will like it; fear of what nearest-and-dearest will say; fear of realising that you don’t actually have the talent or stamina to write a novel after all – fear, essentially, of failure.

But then, as Martin says, the only time a writer truly fails, is when he/she doesn’t write.

And a little light went on in my head when he urged us to write what we want to write and not worry about what anyone else thinks, or even if it will ever be published.

If you write what you love and finish the novel, you will have achieved what you set out to do: you will have succeeded, even if your masterpiece only sits in your attic and never sees the light of day. And maybe, writing that first unpublished novel, will be the stepping stone to greater success with your second, third and fourth…..

3. Martin Davies never writes at home because it’s too distracting and I can empathise completely with that. There are too many things at home that I ‘should’ be doing. I’ve realised that I need to get out of there!

He writes in cafes and considers £2 for a latte good value for a couple of hours sitting in a corner with his notebook. (And that’s another thing – he always writes in his notebook first and types it all up later. This habit developed when he spent all of his ‘day job’ sitting in front of a screen and wanted to do something different when he was writing fiction).

I don’t think writing in a cafe would work for me – too noisy and I’d feel self-conscious BUT I could do it in a library and I need to start – soon! And getting away from the computer screen is another good idea because it’s just too tempting to flick over to the internet (usually in the name of ‘research’ but really because I’m procrastinating).

4. One of my ‘blocks’ for starting a novel is that I’ve been waiting for the ‘big idea’ to hit me but Martin Davies has, I think, cured me of that. He impressed upon us that there are not many original plot ideas for novels – most of them have been done before – but it’s the ‘way you tell ‘em’ that makes all the difference.

This struck me particularly last night when we watched the brilliant film ‘Juno’ on TV. Have you ever seen it? Essentially the storyline could be boiled down to one sentence ‘Sixteen year old becomes pregnant and wants to give the baby away for adoption’. Give that starting point to a hundred writers and they’d all come up with something completely different. What makes ‘Juno’ so good is the strength of the characterisation (no clichés – I was even routing for the stepmother), the sparkling (and often hilarious) dialogue and the fact that you can never quite second-guess what’s going to happen. Very impressive – and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. (Oh and apparently the screenplay was written by Diablo Cody over six weeks in.. you’ve guessed it.. Starbucks!)

Right, I’d better get going. I’ve got a novel to start…!

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8 Responses to Starting That Novel… (Feel The Fear!)

  1. amandajenner says:

    Just about to start my first book and I am a little scared. This made me feel better thanks x

  2. purplebutt8rfly says:

    Thanks for sharing this, I certainly recognise all the points made, and especially the fear side of it and waiting for the good idea. I also find that taking myself to a cafe gives me the time and space to think and write. Whatever works….

    I have just found again your email with your blog address, I am enjoying reading it. Best wishes Monica

  3. Pingback: How to Write a Novel « Sally Jenkins – Writer

  4. I couldn’t write in a cafe – I’d just eat cakes!

    • Patsy, that made me laugh! I agree, it’s very tempting. Perhaps you could only take enough money for a coffee – or reward yourself with a cake when you’d done enough pages of writing?!

  5. pardes says:

    I love your post and it’s upbeat nature about starting that novel. Here I am again starting another novel and looking for a few writing buddies to share the joy and angst! That’s how I found my way here to this lovely blog!

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