• Eliza Chan

Writing a Novel

My last attempt to write a novel spanned about 7 years and spawned multiples drafts. It was/is a fantasy novel inspired by a Standard Grade English writing prelim (write a story based in a forest). At the time I was working my way through both the Anne McCaffrey Pern novels and the Mercedes Lackey Valdemar world which meant I enjoyed romantic fantasy novels with good characterisation but mediocre peril situations.

Anyway this mammoth exercise was written in dribs and drabs without any coherent planning (but lots of random sketches and maps) all the way through the end of high school and into university with characters literally disappearing when they bored me, and unfinished storyline arcs littering it’s 130,000 words. After five or six major drafts it is now coherent although probably has enough plot to spawn a trilogy. I made a half-hearted attempt to field it to a couple of literary agents but after a while I realised I had written the first, self-reflective novel. The theory is, most writers make themselves (or distorted extraordinary versions of themselves) the hero. It’s hard not to. But once that is out of the way, then you are able to write new well-rounded characters and storylines.

So it was shelved.

And something changed.

It was due to reading all the classics perhaps, or being taught about subtexts, freudian readings, the writing self and intertextuality at university. I had never really considered novels as anything other than blissful escapism before this. But now they were political and social. Jane Austen wasn’t just annoying, she was an annoying feminist!

So this time when I decided I had enough ideas for a novel, I actually planned. I have two page character descriptions, a detailed timeline and a dictionary opened beside me at all times. The one problem about writing this way is that it feels very rigid. It’s the Dickens way of writing I guess and some of the spontaneous inspiration has gone. I’m hoping once I’ve finished the first draft I’ll be able to see where and what is lacking so right now I’m just concentrating on the hard slog of actually writing.

They say the first 10,000 words are the hardest. I’m 11,000 words in so I’m getting somewhere.

#AnneMcCaffery #MercedesLackey #novel #writing

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