I was chatting to friend Sue earlier this week and she posed the following question:
“What do you think is the hardest part of any major creative project? For me and for my writing it is starting. Taking that leap of faith that your idea will work and that it is worth investing your time and energy into.” Sue Jeffrey
I’d have to agree that starting can be very daunting. It’s a bit like starting a train rolling, taking off in a plane or a moving large vehicle of any kind. Most of the energy is expended in starting. Once moving, the energy needed to keep going is vastly reduced.
Writing is very similar, but once started I find that the story builds its own momentum and carries me along with it. That’s exciting, and momentum builds its own form of energy and sustains the forward movement. I have found that to be true when writing my most recent work, a novel for children. I struggled to get the first few chapters going, but once I was several chapters into the story, it developed its own momentum, building up a head of steam that kept the wheels of my locomotive turning faster and faster until the destination was reached.
One of the interesting observations from all those who have read the whole book, including my examiners for my MA, is that the latter two thirds of the novel are far stronger than the beginning, with the exception of the first chapter. I’d agree because once I’d built that momentum the writing became progressively easier. That first chapter went through many revisions and major rewrites, so no wonder it is good.
While I agreed with Sue that starting a new writing project is hard, I find that rewriting and editing can often be the hardest part for me. Once I get under way I find that the story often carries me along, an enjoyable place to be. I just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Yes, sometimes the ride can get a little bumpy, but the thrill of discovering what happens – even when I have a strong plan and outline – outweighs any periods of momentary discomfort.
I find the necessary stages of rewriting, editing and proofreading to be tedious, mind numbing and even boring at times. I know what happens, I know the characters and I want to leave them and start something else – to go on a new adventure.
These latter stages are terribly important, especially if one wants to see the story published. During my degree I learned to not only appreciate this vital process, but I also realised how creative editing and rewriting can be. The finished creative work is much better, stronger and publishable than that rough gemstone we call our first draft.
Still harder yet
There are three even harder elements to the creative process like writing a novel or story.
- Deciding when the story is polished enough to send to a publisher.
- Deciding where to send the story.
- Waiting for a reply.
The best thing is just to get on with writing the next story or novel.
If you can only get started.
I think that the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a great idea, but I won’t be participating this time around.
It’s just that I simply do not have the time to do it this year. Nor did I have time to do it last year. I’m in the last stages of completing my Master of Arts in Creative Writing and only have this month to get everything finished and submitted. I finished the course work earlier in the year. Now I’m working on my thesis paper, a 40,000 word novel for children. My novel writing month was spread over about six weeks in August and September. That’s when the pressure was on for me.
Now I’m busy with rewriting, editing, revising and proofreading. It’s a tedious job but one that must be attended to with meticulous care if I want to stand a chance of being awarded my degree. After that I will be submitting the manuscript to publishers so it will be time well spent.
The NaNoWriMo concept is a good one. It’s main strength as I see it is to motivate people to get the novel they’ve been wanting to write for so many years and actually do something other than talk about it. Then there’s the incentive of having hundreds of other people doing the same thing around the globe at the same time which results in a certain momentum being built up. It’s like being caught in the surge of a crowd of people, or catching a great surfing wave. It just carries you along and builds an energy from within.
If you are participating – good writing.
May you eventually recover from the inevitable lack of sleep.
For more information about NaNoWriMo click here.
More on Momentum
I read recently about a good idea for keeping up the momentum of writing a novel. I have no idea where I read or heard this idea. I got it from somewhere. I could have dreamed it up too. I’m not sure. Like all writers, teachers, children, bower birds and other obsessive compulsive collectors, I gather/borrow/steal/commandeer ideas and words and concepts from everywhere. Nothing is off limits. On-one is exempt. None is too sacred.
The writer/speaker was suggesting that it is a good idea to stop each day’s writing in the middle of a scene. Or even in the middle of a sentence. Then the next morning when you sit down to start writing you have somewhere to start. That’s brilliant.
I’ve been trying it for a few days and it seems to work. It also seems to suit my style of writing too. Sure, it’s nice to finish a chapter, close down the computer and go off to peaceful sleep for the night in the knowledge that that part of the novel has been put to bed. The problem I find is that too often I don’t get to the end of a chapter when tiredness takes over, or family responsibilities mean I have to leave off writing and do something else. Coming back to a half finished scene or an incomplete sentence gives me a running jump into the writing again. I finish the scene or sentence and we are away.
More articles in this series: writing a novel: a writer’s journal