For me, I start a project by listening to the voices in my head. Yeah, I know – there are places for people who do that... I usually have a couple of imaginary people to begin with. They’re nattering to each other and after a few pages of writing the chatter down, I can normally tell quite a lot about them. Who they are, where they might live, what they look like, how old they are, whether they have a wart on the end of their nose, an unusual giggle, or a five o’clock shadow that no razor cures. I always have several theme ideas and sometimes the way the characters talk to each other, what they say or how they say it may indicate the main theme. Friendship, loss, personal growth, betrayal? These conversations rarely appear in the actual opening chapter – being a pure research tool - but what they often do, is hint at what the opening line could be?
What comes next is absolutely imperative in order for me to get away from the above starting blocks. I HAVE to have a title. It may end out changing through the process of writing a novel but one that I believe in has to be in place for the real writing to begin. I have to see it there in the ‘Header’ of the page on my laptop...I love brainstorming title ideas and have an entire notebook of titles for, as yet, unwritten stories. I search through books of poetry, some of Shakespeare’s idioms, pages of novels, song lyrics, seeking inspiration for that hooky title that will instantly evoke a response from the reader.
Then the fun begins! The highs and lows of storytelling; the risks your protagonist may or may not take; the potential transformation he or she may undergo; the conflicts and struggles that create the drama; the jeopardy they are placed in order to get where they need to get to.
And what happens me at around thirty five thousand words? I get stuck! Always and without fail... I then leave it for a few days until someone starts talking in my head again. The character, normally the main one, is often quite indignant, like I’ve been rude and ignored them for a while – but once they’re talking again the words seem to flow and flow until the typing of ‘The End.’
Though the joy of completing the first draft is amazing, that’s just what it is – a first draft - an almost complete work ready for re-drafting, editing, slicing and dicing. At this point I normally find a hole to crawl into rather than face that final hurdle.
But a revised, alas often even rewritten work, is more likely to be the complete work. And when that happens, it’s pure magic and worth every single moment of self doubt and agonising along the way.
This isn't intended to be a 'How To...' piece - more a snippet of how it happens for me. And I'm a nosy Norah. I want to know how it unfolds for other novel writers. Do you have OCD type ways of doing things, favourite snacks, writers block at certain word counts?
Er, voices in your head?