How To Write a Novel: Episode 6

 

Have you taken a peek back at what you’ve written? Are you horrified by the lack of cohesion, the overuse of the same verbs, the same adjectives? Are you cringing at the unhealthy scattering of cliché that has erupted across your prose?

Fear not! Look beyond your rough first draft. A few months ago, you had no story. Your idea was a tiny breath of air against a hurricane, a grain of sand in a desert storm; another lost dream. Now, beneath the your rough draft, there is a story. You have a character! You may even have a complex plot twisting across your page. One thing I have learned over the years is that there are many different ways to write a novel.

Maybe you have been labouring over the first few pages. Maybe you can’t bring yourself to move on with the story until each sentence is right. Some might tell you that this is a dangerous way to compose your novel, that getting mired in perfection so early on will stifle your creative flow and prevent you from ever completing your first draft. And this might be true but maybe, for you, this is your way forward. This is your creative flow.

Zadie Smith writes one draft of her novels, she edits aggressively as she progresses so that when she types those words: THE END, she means it, there is no going back for further editing. However, Ernest Hemingway said: “The first draft of everything is shit.’ And who are we to argue with his experience?

As I said, every artist has their way. The only rules you have to follow are your own. Even with my own writing, I find that some scenes require detailed plans and rewriting, others come fast and finished. So don’t sweat it if you’re staring at a hot mess when you look at your growing novel. Conversely, don’t worry if you are still drawing out your first chapter, getting each sentence just right before moving on. You are writing to no one’s rules but your own. I’ll leave you with a great quote from W. Somerset Maugham:

“There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

 On Twitter: @LivKiernan

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