I always thought that writing a novel would be impossible, that my ideas could never be big or grand enough to become anything more than rather elaborate short (or not quite so short) stories. That said, I suddenly find myself facing my laptop, on which sits a total of 60,000 words on a single project, and whilst I am loathe to admit it, I guess that does in fact constitute a novel…and not even a finished one at that! I am roughly 5 months into a project that stole my fascination almost a year ago and not that I can say it has been easy up until this point, I can surprise myself by saying that it has actually been really fun. I just hope that it will continue to be so right up until the final edit.
Of course, I have hit stumbling blocks and bumped into various walls in order to get to this point, but unlike with previous projects, I have been able to find ways around these hurdles and to keep myself focussed on the most important point – just keep writing. Since this project began, I have not had a single day off of writing. Even if it means hastily scribbling down 50 words over my bowl of shredded wheat in the morning, some words are better than no words and it is this perseverance which I think has helped me get to where I am now. I still have a long way to go, but I do have a beginning, an ending, and quite a lot of middle, though there stretches before me a good few months of editing, re-writing and inevitably, cutting.
One of the most irritating things which has halted my progress is finding the balance between research and writing. Owing to the fact that my novel is a historical fiction, it means that much of what I have written needs to be researched fully, in order for it to be authentic. I have been aware of the dangers of doing too much research and putting myself off and have settled on a happy medium of simply getting the words down on paper, and just researching critical points as I come to them. The rest of the holes I can fill in later (she says optimistically…)
It is incredibly satisfying watching characters develop and their personalities emerge over the course of a novel that cannot quite be fully alluded to in anything shorter, and fully immersing myself in a world that I have become deeply fascinated by. I would say that my fascination has become a borderline obsession and the research that I have done has been really exciting and interesting, even if not all of it will find its way onto my page.
Hand in hand with the research and excitement however looms the shade of paranoia, and the fear that actually, my idea has already been done before. It seems that everywhere I look, I notice one of my characters appear in something else on television/in a film/in another book, and I worry that particular interpretation is better than mine. Thankfully, my incredibly supportive writers group have been able to silence my demons and have encouraged me to just keep writing and insist that my own interpretation of these historical people and events will naturally be unique to anyone else’s anyway.
I can only hope that I finish my first draft with as much enthusiasm as I have held for my project thus far (and that it won’t take me another 60,000 words to get to the end!)