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Who decides to write a novel? (Part 1)

The answer is; Anyone can but not if they are in their right minds!

It is one of the most brilliant, frustrating, exhausting and exhilarating things you can do. The journalist and author Christopher Hitchens once said ‘Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.’ Which seems a little unkind but I do know what he means.

Writing a book is a time consuming commitment and a lonely one to boot. It all kicks off with an idea. Your idea is original; a cunning plot, a stunning twist, the ending that no one will predict. You play it over and over in your mind until you can see the characters, hear their voices, understand their personality traits. It begins to gain a life of it's own. That is the easy bit done.

Next comes the tricky task of weaving it all into a story that makes sense, that has no holes or gaping errors and that will hold a reader's interest for 5 or 6 hours. So you map it out on your pc screen or paper (whichever is your preferred weapon). You might google a template if you are a control freak (like me) and there are dozens that you can choose from. This simple task introduces you to a new language; pinch points, character arcs, the hook, your protagonist, sub plots and plot climax.

So you knuckle down and learn the terminology. Your bookshelf groans under the weight of "how to write a bestseller in one month" books to the point where you become Amazon's best customer. You look at your favourite author's website and blogs, hungry for inspiration. You get so caught up with writing the perfect novel that you find you can't see the wood for the trees.

You try a different approach. Taking paper and your favourite pen, you map out a chapter plan. How many chapters does a novel have? You open one to check.

You have all this stuff swimming around in your head; your plot, your characters, the scenes, your need to find an agent or whether to self publish. Your panic begins to mount as you realise you can't publish a novel of 5000 words. This is break point one; do you give up here, shelve it until you have more time or do you slog it out toe to toe withe your manuscript until you have a first draft?

That illusive first draft. The moment when you type "The End" is the second breaking point because that is when the real work begins. You realise that your first draft is just you telling yourself the story. It will be in several different tenses, the grammar will be all over the place, it is riddled with spelling mistakes, the timeline doesn't work and it is told from a dozen different perspectives.

DO NOT SHOW IT TO ANYONE AT THIS POINT! They will tell you it is rubbish and not to bother and they are half right. It is rubbish and you have to craft it into something your reader wants to devour.

I had read about editing; anything between 3 and 12 drafts before it is ready. I reasoned as a published author of business books I would be at the lower end (2 or 3 drafts at most). I was deluded!

When I got to draft three, I let a couple of people see sections of it (not my family because they would have to like it). It was at this point (break point three), I nearly gave up. I was told it was naive, there was too much "tell" and not enough "show" (more jargon I didn't understand).

They all said the same thing. "Wendy the story and plot are great but it's not very well written". I was confused, and hurt. I knew I could write so why was I finding this so hard to grasp. It was then Dan Brown came to my rescue (Yes THE Dan Brown) and in Part 2, I will share the wisdom he gave me that got my novel across the finish line.


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