Ok, so let’s get really real for a moment. I have never been one to wake up at the crack of dawn to write a novel. I love my sleep and it’s hard to get motivated so early in the morning. However, I did this morning. Yes, I woke up at 5am, pushed the snooze twice, so basically got out of bed at ten past five, tip-toed out to the kitchen to make a cuppa and closed my kid’s doors so they wouldn’t hear the kettle going off. It was so peaceful and I actually felt really happy and energised that I finally made a decision to be a 5am creative kook and get some real writing done on my novel. Thing is, being my first day working on it, I only wrote 324 words in just over an hour. But, I started! And that’s what it boils down to. Showing up and doing the work.
This post is the first of a series called ‘My Year of Living Creatively’. Each Wednesday I’ll be discussing my novel writing process, how it’s being planned out, issues I encounter, and writing and editing techniques and tips that may help you through your own process of writing a novel.
As an editor, writer, and mother I often struggle to find time in the day where I have absolute peace and quiet with no distractions to fully let go to creativity and write something.
For years I tried to avoid the whole waking-up-at-5am-to-write-a-novel thing you hear so many writers are doing. I thought, yeah right! I love my sleep! But I came to a point where after about a decade of wanting to write a novel, the ‘right’ time never came. Mind you, I have a ton of notebooks filled with ideas, short stories, numerous poetic half-written picture book prose, and under-developed character ideas and drawings.
So with my 30th birthday looming around the corner in April, I decided now is a good a time as any. I needed to write my novel now! And before I turned 30.
Using the 30 Day Writing Challenge I developed (which is coming super soon – in final editing stage), I was on my way to finally writing my first novel. I wanted to use the 30 Day Writing Challenge to test it out properly and make sure there weren’t any details I may have missed.
Any challenges this week?
- My daughter woke up 30 minutes into my quiet time of writing my novel which is unusual for her. Usually she’ll sleep like a log. I think I may have woke her. Luckily, she went to play quietly with her Lego.
- I was finding it difficult to begin, so I did some free writing to get the creative juices flowing. This really helped. Free writing is also great for building creative confidence.
Week 1: Writing a Synopsis
For a while I had an idea brewing in the back of my mind that I really wanted to write about. I sat at my computer this morning with a mental blank and wasn’t sure exactly how to approach such a big project. I flipped through my notes to jump start my planning or pre-writing process.
There are three stages of the writing process. They are the pre-writing, writing, and re-writing stages. During the pre-writing stage, which is where I currently am, it’s helpful to write a 500 word or one page rough synopsis which is a short overview of the whole story. It’s not the final synopsis that’s usually sent to an editor or publisher. It’s simply used as a tool to give structure to your novel and a narrative arc. As my story is half-baked at the moment, I only have half of a synopsis. I’ll be finishing it during the next few mornings. Yes, at 5am. I am dedicated! Or crazy…
After I write my synopsis I will begin researching my subject, consider my audience, develop a proposed title, and develop a highly detailed outline of my plot.
Writing a synopsis allows you to get the whole plot on paper in a brief, readable way and helps you to see if there are any holes in logic. Below are some elements to consider when writing your synopsis.
Plot basics: At the most basic level, a plot is usually made up of three acts. Act one is the beginning, act two is the middle, and act three is, you guessed it, the end. However, I use a more in-depth model of plot structure which includes an exposition, conflict, climax, and denouement. See the image below.
Protagonists Narrative Arc: This is specifically about your main character only. Where do they begin in your story? What are their historical, social, and cultural world view and experiences? And where do they end up? How did they get to that point? And why would they make certain decisions?
Important Side Characters: Every protagonist needs friends… and enemies! They’re often responsible for pressuring the protagonist to change in terms of their point of view or a new outlook in life. How do their relationships develop? Where does their relationship stand in the beginning? And will their friendship be tested throughout the course of the story?
Theme: Every story has an underlining theme or themes. For instance, the main themes for the Twilight Saga were attraction and abstinence. Although many also argue that the unintentional underlining theme is of power over women. Readers will always find a theme whether you intend it or not. By taking some creative control over your theme, you have the power to instill a deeper level of meaning in the text that the reader will take away with them.
Ending: Know your ending! There are two overarching natural endings in novels. First, the happy ending which often leads to either marriage or birth. Second, the tragic ending which leads to either separation or death, leaving trauma and bereavement in their wake. Personally, I enjoy a good bitter-sweet tragic ending. Knowing your ending will give you a point to work toward while developing your structure.
Other Novel Writing Things To Ponder
What inspired you to write your novel or build upon ideas? I was personally inspired by books such as The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Sarah’s Key and thinking about philosophical concepts such as the meaning of human existence. Knowing what inspires you to write can often help you stay motivated to continue the process.
It’s important to understand very specifically where your novel would be placed in terms of Genre. Perhaps it may fall under a sub-genre or a blend of genres. Most genres often have specific characteristics. For instance, an example of Gothic fiction characteristics are; a longing for the past, display of extreme forces of power particularly over women, and threatening locations such as a decaying mansion. Think Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Know your genre.
Staying Motivated to Write
Think about why you’re actually writing your novel. Seriously! Please don’t say to get big advances from publishers! Chances are that it ain’t gonna happen. In fact, that rarely even happens these days. Write because you feel the creativity flowing through you and you feel so inspired to write, it won’t matter whether you get a publishing contract or not. If not, I encourage self-publishing! What motivates you? Is it the sheer joy of creating and loosing yourself in prose or is it because writing is the only time you have to yourself?
I think of writing a novel as having a secret affair! You can sneak off and write your heart away. I got this terrific idea from Elizabeth Gilbert. It completely changed the way I think about finding time to write. So, I wake up at 5am each morning and have my writing affair while everyone is sleeping!
As author of Eat, Love, Pray and BIG MAGIC Elizabeth Gilbert says:
Join in the Conversation!
How do you stay motivated to write? Share your thoughts, questions, and ideas in the comments section below.
Super useful links