How to Write a Novel: The Midway Point

It’s been about three months since I started work on my novel, Rosetta, and a little over two months since I described my first impressions of writing it.  I hit 50,000 words last week. That’s a little over half my forecast completed word count, which means I’m near enough halfway through.  At the very least, I’m in the thick of things! And I’ve got some new reflections on the subject of writing a novel to tell you about.  Some of them are pretty surprising; at least in light of my first impressions. It’s taught me a lot about how to write a novel.

I’m so glad I have a plan

A quick one this. I’d never have made it this far without a plan, telling me who is where and what they’re doing at any one time.  Using a plan means that everything is always facing the right direction, even if I can’t keep track of every plot strand at once.  Not everyone writes using the same techniques. But I couldn’t imagine taking on this, or indeed another novel, without a plan. It’s not an especially detailed plan, more just  broad strokes of the plot. But I wouldn’t know how to write a novel without it!

Keep a routine…

This one crops up on a lot of advice blogs (#writingtips) and I gotta say, I’m an advocate.  I write nearly every morning now and my output has done nothing but increase during my morning slot.  Once I used to write about 500 to 600 words in the hour but now 800 is a disappointment.  I think I’ve trained my brain to fire on all cylinders at the same time every day. Now it’s just a matter of clocking in and hammering out another chunk of novel.

…but write whenever you can

Writing isn’t like a day job, even though I do it every day now.  You don’t get paid by the hour and you can’t sleepwalk through a session like you might at the office.  A novel won’t finish itself, and the only person who’s going to finish it is you.  So if you feel like you can write a bit more in the evenings, you should. It’ll bring you all the closer to that final manuscript.

Incidentally, I’ve hit a bit of a romantic point in my book, and I’m finding it hard to get in the mood surrounded by workmen and vending machines in my usual morning café spot.  So I’m writing this instead – I don’t want to miss my routine slot, and I’d rather write the romance back at my house tonight with a few candles and subtle application of the dimmer switch.

It’s okay to cheat on your novel

Yup, this directly contradicts my First Impressions of writing a novel.  The fact is, I’m with Rosetta for the long haul.  But I had a good idea a little while ago and it sat in my notebook until one night I just grabbed my laptop and started writing it up.  If I hadn’t, I might have lost my drive for it and it wouldn’t have become the short punchy story it did.  I didn’t sacrifice any Rosetta time for it either; I did it all in the evenings rather than in my morning slot.  It’s allowed me to take ideas and styles that wouldn’t fit into my novel and set them in another story, rather than have them creep awkwardly into Rosetta.  And, because it’s been additional writing practice, I feel it’s done my technique a lot of good.  So don’t be afraid to cuckold your book, so long as you keep to your normal routine too.

Read good books

I’m reading Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams at the moment, and I’m loving it.  And reading it is inspiring me.  Seeing another author produce such a wealth of gripping writing makes me want to write more, to build up a body of work that defines me as an author.  It’s the same when I read Neil Gaiman – it makes me want to knuckle down and get my own ideas down on paper.  How to write a novel? Read good books! There’s nothing like it for motivation.

Explore your book

A novel can accommodate so much more story than a novella.  This can take the form of extra webs of plot, more characters, multiple locations…   The stuff that fattens out the book into the story that it is.  I love exploring the world I’ve created – yes, I have my plan, but I love building on that skeleton as I see fit along the way.  It’s great to take characters out on little tangents to see how they react with each other or in certain situations, and to get to know them by spending some extra time with them.

Remember…  It’s only the first draft

Nothing is set in stone – especially not Rosetta, ironically enough.  As I’ve written it, I’ve found my book changing its focus from the isolated, ocean-borne thriller I originally envisioned to a more sprawling, exotic horror.  As a result, there’s bound to be some inconsistencies in how I’ve handled certain scenes and even the tone of certain movements in the story.  But this is, of course, only the first draft.  Once I complete it and let it sit for a while, I can go back and read it, weighing up the parts I like with my impression of the kind of book I think it’s trying to be.  Then I can trim and rearrange to suit that book.  Even if Rosetta doesn’t turn out to be the book I planned it to be, I want it to be the best story that it can.

How to write a novel – write it!

That rounds up my midpoint impressions.  Getting this far at least means I’m past the point of no return, and I think I’ve learned more from working on this novel than I ever have about writing before.  It’s difficult, and a challenge, but I’m loving it.  Onwards!

Liam Smith

Writing twisted gothic tales and drumming whilst I think up more.

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