I started writing a novel back in 2017. I was at the end of my Creative Writing MA, and for our dissertation we were required to submit the first 20-40,000 words of a novel.
A Dreamer’s Life was a short story I wrote during the first term.
It was popular amongst my classmates and I was encouraged to develop it into something bigger. So that’s what I did. I took A Dreamer’s Life, made huge changes and additions and ended up submitting Hopewell Shadows at a little over 20,000 words.
It was far more difficult that I could have imagined – beginnings usually are.
I remember being mentally entangled in the most trivial things, and feeling extremely frustrated when I just couldn’t write.
At times, it felt like I was trying to squeeze water from a dry sponge. I learnt that you can’t force creativity and trying to do so will only cause you more stress. You may have a month-long dry patch but when the rain comes, it could pour for days and you’ll back on track in no time. Another thing I realised I was doing with my writing was something that I can on occasion do elsewhere in life, and that’s the tendency to make things harder for myself.
I was wrapped up in trying to make the pieces of the puzzle fit, adding more in to make something in particular work, and then realised (far later than I should have) that I didn’t need that something in particular at all. So out it would go, along with its complicated baggage, excessive fluff and my unnecessary writer’s stress!
Once I got past the initial humps, things began to fall into place.
I was happy with what I submitted, but having worked on its development over the last two-three years since finishing the degree, I can confidently say that I’d be embarrassed to read my dissertation. It has come a LONG way and things continue to change, which means answering the question, “What’s your novel about?” isn’t as simple as you’d think! With that in mind, I took a few moments to mull it over and have come up with the following…
Hopewell Shadows: the most current elevator pitch.
Hopewell Shadows is an emotional thriller with an element of science fiction and a sprinkling of the supernatural. It’s set in 1980s New England and follows the journey of Charlotte Summers, a young woman betrayed by her loved ones and struggling to uncover the truth about her childhood following traumatic events and an experimental treatment gone wrong. With the help of a shady neuroscientist and his dream recording device, what Charlotte seeks could be within reach, but at what cost?
As I post this blog, I’ve just written Chapter 22 and am almost at 50,000 words.
I sometimes feel like I should have finished writing by now – it’s been almost three years! But then I remind myself that I haven’t just been writing, because I’ve spent countless hours editing and researching, I have a day job and books to read (because all good writers must read), and a whole life outside of writing.
We were given plenty of advice/suggestions during our course some of which included, “You must be selfish with your time!” and “Get up at 6am if you have to…”
Well, that approach may work for some, but it’s not for me. If I was to get up and start typing at 6am every day not only would I be miserable, but the quality of my work would be poor and I’d be exhausted. My day job is 90% computer based and tends to leave me feeling drained, so writing after work isn’t ideal either… instead, I usually get my best writing done at the weekends and sometimes I’ll take annual leave to stay home and write!
For me, writing is not the number one priority – finding a good balance is.
So I’m okay with the time it’s taking, and you should be too. If you’ve been thinking of your progress as ‘slow’ or you’ve had an idea in the works for years but haven’t yet started, try not to beat yourself up about it (easier said than done, I know). The thing is, you can’t force these things because they’ll only happen when you’re truly ready for them.
The advice about being selfish with your time, is true in a way though. If you’re ready to write, then that’s what you should do – the housework can wait, those texts don’t need an immediate response, and the dog can be walked later on. Whilst you can’t force it, you shouldn’t deny it either!