The road from ideas to books is not a smooth one. If you’re about to start a new project, or if you’ve been thinking of starting a novel, here are a few to consider:
- Once you have the overarching narrative, start planning in terms of scene structures. While some writers don’t like to plan too much or at all, it can be helpful in a number of ways. First, you will end up with a clear cause-consequence chain of events as one scene leads to the next. Secondly, you’ll be able to more clearly assess the necessity of certain parts of the story which may or may not be useful in keeping the narrative moving on. And lastly, you can more effectively plan the setup for events, characters or places if you know what their roles will be later on.
- Know what to leave out – be selective. This includes characters, places and events or any information which, once you have an overall plan, may not seem as necessary anymore. Only keep crucial parts. This is particularly hard when dealing with characters and situations inspired by real-life people or events. It’s hard to dismiss what we find interesting. But part of the discipline required relates to the understanding that ‘interesting’ is not enough in the context of a full novel.
- Try to distance yourself (when possible) of the tyranny of the ‘I’. I don’t think it’s possible to wholly succeed in this endeavour, but it’s vital to try and not, for example, use fiction only as a therapy tool, where the sole driving factor to a narrative is an underlying sense of self-importance. It’s great to work difficulties out through fiction, but we must try to not make the assumption that because we think something is important to us, it’s important to the world at large.
- Don’t spend time researching ‘the market’. While contextualising your voice in relation to others’ may be a good thing, be careful with the extremes. Trends fluctuate so quickly (and publishing can be a slow process) that by the time you finish a project to fit one trend, there will already be another one in place.
- Know that editing and re-writing can fix the more specific details in the narrative which may feel loose at first. At the start of a novel, a lot of things are happening while you write. You’re establishing form constraints (and freedoms), making choices as to how you convey your chosen voice, playing with the stylistic aspects of a story’s tonality. In other words, you’re seeing what works and what doesn’t. You may find that once these are established, you’ll want to re-write earlier chapters. It’s common. Don’t get paralysed by doubt and try to press on.
Gonzalo C. Garcia is a writer and Senior Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing in the Warwick Writing Programme. His recent novel, We Are The End is heavily influenced by his marked interest in Santiago de Chile, video games, digital culture and everyday constructions of narrative. It was nominated for the Edinburgh Festival First Novel Award 2017 and launched in October with Galley Beggar Press.
Directed by Maureen Freely and David Morley, the Warwick Writing Programme at University of Warwick prides itself in having writing staff who not only teach but are also published authors involved in the writing industry and literary scenes. It has just opened an exciting PhD programme in Creative Writing (https://goo.gl/3pdiB9) alongside its internationally recognised flagship BA and MA programmes.
For more on the Warwick Writing Programme: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/writingprog/