Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Novel HQ

Novel HQ aka The Kitchen Table. Yes, I have an office, but I can't spread my notes and paraphernalia out, because there simply isn't room on the desk. I also prefer writing new scenes in longhand.

Natalie Goldberg talks about 'exercising the writing muscle' and I'm sure that there is a much more creative connection between brain, hand and pen than there is between brain, fingers and computer keyboard. The screen acts as a barrier and automatically imposes the need for order, kicking into the internal editor before the piece is ready for those kinds of restrictions. Does that make sense?

I love the whole process of novel writing, but hate the unwieldiness of it. Compared to a short story, a novel is like holding a three-year-old toddler in your arms as opposed to a six-week-old baby. There is so much more to contain and hold in your head. I realise I need a physical way of visualising the whole. I'm trying to work out the best way of doing this for me. Some novelists use index cards, spread out all over the carpet (or the bed, in one case). Some use Post It notes on a huge board pinned to the wall. I feel as if I need pictures. Quite how that would work, I don't know!

Writing a first novel is a huge learning curve. I now realise that dividing my work into chapters, each chapter having a separate file on the computer, was probably a mistake. I'm now copying and pasting it all into one document. A chore, but a necessary one. You see how easily distracted I am from actually writing?

I may just log off and go and pick up that pen.....


JO said...

I've written a non-fiction book about play therapy, and done a PhD - and my experience is beginning with an idea of the whole thing, and then allowing it to fall apart - it's scary, but lets you think about each bit at a time, and then - presto, suddenly it all comes together again.
So I took that line with a novel - made it might less alarming when I had no idea where it was going, and made surprises easier to work with. Will it ever see a publisher? Who knows!

debutnovelist said...

Hi Jo
I sympathise with the problem of keeping a whole novel 'under control'. Cards and notes don't work for me. Here's something that does. While typing your novel put each chapter heading (chapter 1 etc) in, say, 16 pt. If you like you can also do the same for each scene, e.g. 'In the Cafe' using another heading style, e.g. bold 14pt. Now click on View and Document Map. Hey presto. Your novel is mapped out before you at the side of the screen.
I find this v. easy - and it changed my life! If you want more detailed instructions, just shout, Apologies of course if the whole idea leaves you cold!

Jo said...

That's a great idea! Thanks for that. I'll try it. The trouble with the storyboard I created for Chapter 1 is that it's so time-consuming! Also, as Captain Black says in the post above, it's more of a prompt to inspire. The girl on the swing doesn't look like the girl on the swing in my head, but is more appealing and takes me on a slightly different journey with her character! It has inspired me to add more depth to her character when previously she had been quite a minor character and probably shouldn't have been, if that makes sense!!

debutnovelist said...

The doc map is best for when your novel starts to grow. More for control than inspriation, I think, but I find it lets me see what I have written and where.I think it will work on a Mac as long as you use Word. Best of luck!