Progress on Writing a First Novel by Marie Cooper

Writing a First Novel

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Progress

I will be plotting (see what I did there) my progress here… I will graph my word count.
Only 90000 or so words to go..

Day 1 – Tuesday 31st May 2022

Starting ahead of schedule thanks to Arts Council England’s premature rejection. Anyway, they are forgotten already, Arts who?

I started work today on Chapter One. I am beginning in medias res, which is just posh-speak for ‘in the midst of things’. Beginning in the action, at a point in the story where the story has already begun. It is actually feeling rather more tricky than I imagined it might be.

Maybe it’s just the clunky feeling of being less accustomed to writing in prose. I am used to the zippedyalongness of dialogue in a script. It is going to take some getting used to. I’m sure I will get the hang of it, by the time I reach 90,000 words or thereabouts.


It doesn’t feel too shabby a progress for day one. 831 words under the belt and a fair bit of background work on my antagonist. He has a name and, of course, he already seems to have more depth and is more interesting than everyone else in the story. I will look into sorting that out on Thursday. I have to call it a day for now because I still have to prep for work tomorrow.

Only day one and already my aim to look after my health and well-being by walking every day is out of the window. I’ll try to get a quick walk in tonight or tomorrow morning before work if I can.

Music of the day (other than Whitesnake’s Here I go Again stuck in my head for no reason – Arts who?), was listening to the collection ‘Most Epic Music Ever: “Light And Dark” by Audiomachine’ as I wrote.

And today, whilst looking at names for my antagonist and side characters I have been using Behind The Name.

Saturday 4th June

I am enjoying the structured chaos of the process. I thought, that working on such a huge project, I would feel overwhelmed and I would find it stressful. Especially as in this first week I did not get as much written in terms of word count as I had hoped.

On my prettyful Gannt chart, I had planned to have my first 2000 words written in the first three days. My first chapter would be complete by now. Even though I am not on track, I am feeling fine about everything so far. Even when I haven’t written prose or dialogue I have been gathering information in terms of research and learning more about the novel writing process, all of which is drip feeding into my story and building my progress.

I am taking the Eating the Elephant approach, taking one small bite at a time, and I can feel that it will all slowly come together. A bit of dialogue here. A new character there. Some information about the setting. The weather, seasons. The culture. One thing pulling another idea to itself. Connections.

I mitigated the expected noisy neighbours issues by having an emergency writing bag ready to go. So when they were playing loud music on Thursday when I sat down to work, I just grabbed my bag, left the noisy, stressful situation and worked elsewhere.

I think I will put aside some time each week to make sure that if I have gathered any notes on paper, I get them in Scrivener into my outline. I thought that an outline was something that would be like a solid plan of how the book would be written before I even started to write. I think I am realising now that it is far more fluid and amorphous than that and that it will grow and change as I write.

I’ve had some real breakthroughs in this first few days in terms of the culture, magic, antagonist and landscape. There are still some major holes in my magic system that I need to work out.

I am not going to be too hard on myself. Having been rejected by the Arts Council for funding, I can’t pay for the mentor I had hoped to work with. So I have to learn everything about writing a novel alone. I will have no ongoing feedback and support. No second reader for my book when it is complete, no meeting with the agent and editor when it’s done so that I can pitch it. All the opportunity I could have had, locked behind the door of priviledge once more. Not for the likes of me.

Thank goodness for all the wonderful people like Brandon Sanderson putting all his lectures on his website and doing his Writing Excuses podcast. Like Pen to Print running their amazing free classes and workshops in writing for the page, stage and screen. For Writers’ Hour a free safe space for writers to meet and write together. No matter what they write, what stage in their writing they are at or where they are in the world. For Reedsy and all of their free videos, webinars and email courses on writing.

For every organisation willing to slam the door of opportunity in your face and pull up ladders, there is always someone holding a door open or reaching back down the ladder to help you up. Thank goodness for good people.

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