Reflections on.. writing your first novel.

I began world-building for my first novel whilst we were still enjoying our summer holiday and have been writing between 3-6 hours a day, Monday – Friday since halfway through February.

Amazingly, I’m already at 37.4k words on my first draft and have a new and deep appreciation for the craft.

I’ve consumed a lot of books in the past 6-7 years, I did some rough math the other day and calculated that I read on average 3 books a week, since I picked up my first eBook. A lot of books, a lot of words.

After a few weeks of online courses and study, I began putting my ideas together. It was a little stop/start, to begin with, because I needed the right tool to gather and organise everything. I tried Scrivener and it worked for a time but the process of saving drafts to dropbox and trying to move between my writing laptop and PC was onerous.

After a considerable amount of searching, I found a cloud-based tool called “living writer” and since I moved the notes and character sheets across to this, it’s been an easier process.

Like most writers, I often think of things a random times, and I can use this tool to add dialogue to a scene or make a story note that I can easily access when I’m at my writing desk. Before I had this, the notes app on my phone was full of ideas, scenes, settings as well as notes on the characters of my current book. (I tried to show a friend the menu I’d planned for a themed dinner party and randomly gave her the note that detailed the villain of my current book… she thought I was serving locusts, but that’s a story for another time)

When I’m asked what made me decide to write I usually tell people I’ve always wanted to write (7 year old me thought she’d be a writer, artist or musician) but the number of books I have read and continue to, should also be a clue.. as the marvellous Mr Terry Pratchett once said: “And I went on reading; and, since if you read enough books you overflow, I eventually became a writer.

This experience has changed me already. Moving through the concepts, character creation, world building, scenes, dialogue – the story arcs.. its a big undertaking and I have no idea how our contemporaries did this on typewriters. Aghast at the very thought! No wonder writers have traditionally locked themselves away in designated spaces to weave words into worlds.

So here we are! All 37.4k words of it so far.. and more than ever before I have so much admiration for the storytellers of the world. The process of writing is beautiful, painful, frustrating and exhilarating.

But we write because we must.

 

 

Reflections on.. the craft of writing.

“What did you want to be when you were little?”

It’s amazing how many times we’ve been asked this question, or asked it of others in turn. I always thought I’d be a writer, artist or musician and instead, I became a Recruiter for some of New Zealand’s largest corporates.

Growing up in my earliest years we were surrounded by creative people of all walks of life. It was the most natural thing in the world to me as a 5-year-old to assume that I too, would take a creative path when I grew up.

After my dad passed – life changed, the creative personalities largely dropped away and I didn’t really have those figures to look to anymore. I studied a little bit, fell into office work and stumbled my way into Recruitment because I loved how much you could learn about different jobs, companies, industries and professions – without actually having to commit to those jobs yourself.

It was perfect for someone like me, who loves to learn, listen, observe, go down research rabbit holes, meet new people, make connections and have a positive impact on peoples lives. It’s only now – 17 years in – that I’ve come to appreciate the art and science of recruitment on a different level.

For years I’d focused my efforts on corporate life… working hard, overachieving, creatively problem solving, continuously improving, putting in way too much energy than was strictly necessary, and doing my very best to be taken seriously in a profession that not many people understand, and fewer still actually value.

But this niggly voice in the back of my head was always crying out to create.

So in December I packed up my laptop for a wee while, waved a slightly teary goodbye to the excellent team of recruiters I led, and headed off for a summer break. Ostensibly, for a decent chunk of time to refresh and reset after the madness of building and engaging a team in the midst of a global pandemic. (And see friends and family again, after lockdowns put a stop to socialising)

The ultimate goal? Creative writing. Even as I’ve slogged away in the corporate world, I’d always fancied myself as a writer. An observer of life and collector of stories. But who has the time or energy for creativity? I’d always told myself one day I’d take a little break and get a head start on writing.

And here I am.

The process of creative writing is like night and day compared with the ranting/ blogging and recipe writing I’ve done on this site since 2007 ..and the biggest surprises?

I love the process: after working out pretty early on that I’m the Architect type of writer, I’ve thrown myself headfirst into world building, plotting, character development etc. Understanding that there will be drafts, re-writes and more re-writes; and made peace with this.

I’ve always been a writer: remember those comments about learning, listening, observing and going down research rabbit holes? Classic writer behaviour. Not to mention the note taking..

There’s so much to learn, and thats exciting: there’s incredible tools, resources, video courses, blogs and communities for writers and that feeling of being part of a community of creatives (that I’d craved since I was a child) is at my (literal) fingertips.

So have I written a book? Not exactly – but I have begun building a compelling world, fleshed out and built nuanced characters, imagined scenes, begun to write lore, plotted the story across three books (!!) and started plotting the story arc of my first book.

It’s the start to writing that I could have never had before: having a clear head; free (at least for now) of work situations ticking over in my brain and taking up space.

Instead of scrambling to get ready each weekday and travel in to work, we begin with a beach walk (meeting as many dogs as possible) before delving into my process, and it’s magic.

Will I ever go back to Recruitment? Well, yes – if I want to pay the bills! (And I’ll want the challenge soon, knowing my brain)

Will I ever regret taking time out for this moment? Never, not in a million years.