08 November 2012

writing a novel

In recent weeks I have settled down to write. I had several ideas on my mind and I began by refining them into workable plots: a fast-paced thriller with science fiction aspects; a deep study in character and ‘coming-of-age’; a mystery within a tangle of modern relationships; and a slightly supernatural tale with elements of time shift.
I chose one of these and wrote the preliminary draft of a first chapter, a hook baited to attract the curious reader. I quite liked the idea and set about the necessary leg work. Using Excel worksheets I fleshed out personalities for seven or eight characters, giving them appearances, habits, backgrounds and lifestyles, oh – and names. Fortunately there are many Internet resources which help with name popularity in given decades. Next I drew up a timeline of events (a very useful tool for a story that might span a couple of decades).
I was keen to get cracking but no, now I needed to research locations and residences. I took screen shots of street maps. To help me with character definition I also saved images of males and females who looked right for the roles I had in mind for them.
Ready to write? No, not quite. I wanted a way of keeping track of this project as it grows. My good friend Excel provided the platform to keep records. I have a workbook with columns for chapter, scene, time and date, setting, action and characters. I have set up hyperlinks from the spreadsheet to the relevant Word Documents where my initial writing sits.
You’d think I’d be ready to let the pen fly by now... well, nearly. I doubled the length of the first chapter but changed most of the characters’ names and revised the timeline significantly. Best to do all that before getting in too deep, right? I started a second chapter. It may not end up as chapter two because I haven’t decided the narrative order yet. By the way, I have written so far from a third person point of view. That’s ok isn’t it? It enables me to cover the actions and thoughts of everyone.
Last night I began rewriting, this time in the first person, and found that being able to delve deeper into the character of the protagonist was a great improvement. There are obviously constraints, the main character can only relay what he has seen and experienced himself. However there are subtle ways of delivering information that lies outside his knowledge and that can make for interesting dialogue.
So, now I am trying to choose between first and third person points of view. To rewrite a large chunk from a different viewpoint would require full scale restructuring so I am halting progress while I decide. When it all gets too much I pull on my shorts and trainers and run. It feels good.

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