Thursday, 15 January 2015 00:13

The Novel Writing Journal

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I keep notebooks and journals for everything. One of the ones I've found most valuable is a companion to the novels I write.

My novel writing journal is different to the notebooks in which I develop my plot and characters for the story. My novel writing journal is a separate notebook where I record things not about the novels themselves, but about my personal experience in writing them.

These notes are a subjective analysis of my creative process, including how I feel about the story in its various stages. Things like:

How easy or difficult some sections of the book were to write.

What techniques worked to solve problems and which didn't.

Observations of my own fears and state of mind regarding the work.

My feelings about my writing in general and how they influenced my approach to this project.

To date I've kept notes on the creation of four different novels and in doing so have made some interesting discoveries.

I've learned for example that I'm very thorough in outlining the first half of my story, the climax scene and the ending. Once I've got this much sorted, however, the urge to begin writing the story usually overwhelms me.

I've learned that giving in to this urge is a mistake. Every time I do I've come to regret it! Because once I reach the point where my detailed scene-by-scene outline ends I always come to a grinding halt.

Another thing I've learned is that once I start a story, it's vital that I keep up my momentum, to write fast and never miss a day. To do this I have to stop myself editing as I write. I simply think of each word, each sentence as a place-holder for what will ultimately be there after I've revised them.

I've learned I always fly through the beginning of my story and then hit a wall when I reach the middle, but that I always manage to push through it.

I've learned I'm rarely excited by my characters during the first draft. It's only once I start fleshing them out and adding details in the subsequent 'layers' that the characters start to come alive for me. Only then do I start to get really excited about the story.

These are valuable things for me to know. If I didn't know them, each time they happened I'd probably panic, decide the story itself was no good and chuck it all in.

But because I have a record of my former experiences, when the going gets tough with my current one I can look back and see that the same thing happened last time. And - more importantly - that I successfully worked through the problem each time.

Writing a novel is a long winding road and it's difficult to remember all the steps I took along the way. It's a bit like childbirth - you tend to forget all the pain you went through bringing your baby into the world.

Recording those experiences helps me discover and refine my process.

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