Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. (But there may be some sprinting involved!)

View from my window during my October writing retreat.

It’s done. The second draft of my novel is finally finished. I can’t quite believe it. I also can’t quite believe how long I’ve been working on it:

Feb 2020: After brewing the bones of the story and characters on and off for years, I put my play on the back burner and did a ‘writing magical worlds’ course where I explored the main character and elements of the story, writing a short section (which is now at the end of the second section of the book).

Mar-Jun 2020: After the course, I was going to get back to my play but when Covid came to our shores, there was just so much time at home! I couldn’t waste this opportunity so I wrote the initial ‘brain dump’ over lockdown 1, with the help of Camp Nanowrimo and another ‘fantastical fiction’ writing course.

Jul-Dec 2020: I typed my bleary long-hand up, printed it out, and read it ‘as a reader’ to get a sense of what I’d created. I learnt that there was little major conflict and the antagonist wasn’t defined. I had more work to do.

Jan-Apr 2021: I began to rewrite after some world-building and story development. I also attended a course to help me understand the essential elements a novel needs.

May 2021: As part of the course I was given a report on the first few thousand words, which suggested I take it down to two points of view amongst other things.

Aug 2021: I began to properly redraft with the help of a bullet journal, which was a game changer for my process.

By May 2022: I had a decent draft, but it still wasn’t there, some emotional beats were missing and I was still being too nice to my characters. I took a break and focused on art instead.

Aug 2022: I was back to the novel, working towards a writing retreat week for October, which catapulted me back into it.

Jan 2023: By the end of the month, I finished a very decent draft.

For any writers reading this, these are my recommendations if you’re thinking of writing a first novel:

The bullet journal

A friend suggested I have a go at using one and it’s been a game-changer. It’s helped me establish a writing habit and has been a constant companion that’s encouraged me to keep going (and sprint to some milestones) as well as somewhere to log achievements. I also use it as a reflective space to write about my writing sessions AND I’ve used it as a ‘knowledge book’ on the world of the story, so all my world-building is in there as well. I’m actually on my second journal for this project with no intention of stopping using it.

My Kindle

I’ve printed full drafts out twice but to do line edits a couple of times in quick succession, I’ve emailed the manuscript to my Kindle and used the highlighting and notes function to make line edits, which I then go back to the manuscript to update. This has been handy and also makes me feel like I’m reading someone else’s work, rather than editing my own, which has helped me gain some perspective on my writing.

Taking a break

It felt odd to take a break from a project that was taking so long, but doing Find Your Joy art course helped me do something different but still creative, and I came back to the project fresh. I think it also unblocked some issues I had and brought a different viewpoint due to the time spent away.

Something that the course encouraged was for you to think about how you develop your own process and create art you love, rather than what you think you should create/what other people like. I’ve come back to the novel really wanting to make it mine, rather than perhaps what I thought a novel should be. I’ve worked in publishing. I know how hard novelling is, I had no idea why I challenged myself to write a novel, but enjoying the process, and thinking about the product as only needing to satisfy me has helped me keep my head.

So, I hear you ask, what’s next?

Well, I’m having a rest.

Over January I created this Pinterest board to help me kickstart my creative ideas for my visual art. I’m currently taking part in #Februllage2023 on Instagram -you create a collage to a daily prompt- as a fun, low hassle way to get back into art and still feel creative. Here’s my work so far:

The first two prompts are Fish and Smile. Can you guess what the other two prompts are? I’m hoping to keep this going all month but we’ll see how it goes. Check out how I’m getting on via my art Instagram.

I’ve arranged a mentor to help me develop the novel further and it’s with her right now. She’ll be reading it this month, giving me a report and then will help me work it up over the year. I was very nervous handing it over to her as no one else has read the whole thing, but I love the world I’ve created and I want to make it the best story it can be. So watch this space for what happens next.

Until next time!


This entry was posted in art, Inspiration, Novel, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. (But there may be some sprinting involved!)

  1. davery951 says:

    Just jogging along then!

    Dad xx

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