3 AUGUST 2012
A NOVEL IN A WEEK
My fellow writer, Wendy Loveday, recently went in for the challenge of writing a novel in a week. She’s a brave girl – I don’t think I could even contemplate it. She left a day-by-day account on her Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/Md43TB) but I thought that the effort it involved and what lay behind it warranted deeper investigation. After a couple of days much-needed rest to recover, I caught up with Wendy to ask her about it.
Q : So what made you take on the write a novel in a week challenge?
A : Well Nick, I was inspired by David Robinson (www.dwrob.com) who set the challenge for himself, so being rather intrigued by this I decided to see exactly how dedicated I was to writing. And let me tell you, I found out. I am determined to make writing my life. It's always been a massive part of it, as has performing my work, and this just gave me the excuse I needed to bury my head into my computer and release my characters.
Q : How much preparation did you do beforehand?
A : Quite honestly, I did an hour's preparation on Sunday, 8 July where I reached deep inside the hundreds of characters that I have chained up in my head and selected two that would clash beautifully thereby creating plenty of conflict and tension. On top of that I gave them co-stars that would help tell their story and then I just sat down to write on Monday morning. Sensibly David Robinson had been planning his novel for a month. If only I had known I would have done the same.
Q : So did you have a plot organised?
A : Not exactly a plot, but I knew I wanted to write a romantic comedy, which has a sort of formula. What you need to make your story stand out is for your characters to be unique. I always carry a small notebook with me wherever I go, to write down anything I hear which I think is quirky, funny or just plain stupid. I am sure that a lot of my friends and family may recognise some of the things that they have said to me, but they're quite used to it by now. As it was, I found a lot of amusing things that had been said either to me or around me in half a dozen of these little books which helped me immensely with the dialogue, but also enabled me to hear my characters voices. This in turn helped me know them better as I could already see them, but I really needed to be able to hear them. As I wrote the novel, I visualised it all as if it was a movie that I was watching to ensure there was plenty of action or my readers would get bored.
Q : You say that your characters write their own story and that they misbehave. Why do you think that is?
A : I think that it's because I didn't have a plot and so I let them roam free so that I can find out what they are really like, capable of and also not capable of. I like to make sure that my characters don't ever move too far out of character unless they are under extreme circumstances, which can be falling in love, stress, and fear to name just a few. I like to make sure that they are also three-dimensional. I like to give timid characters strength when they need it, and the strong characters a vulnerability otherwise the reader cannot engage with the character. For example, one of the characters was a rough-tough soldier who is grumpy, mean and conniving, but he has a particular vulnerability which allows the reader to understand why he is this way. I would tell you what is but it would give away what turned out to be a strong subplot. When I started to write him, I truly did not know that he had this particular trait to his character.
Q : So you ended up with 51,470 words at the end of the seven days challenge, but you say you need 70,000 words to turn it into a complete novel. How are you going to do that?
A : From about the midpoint onwards, well definitely the last three days of the challenge, because I knew I was running out of time, I wrote the vast majority of the dialogue without my characters doing what I would call the business. You know like, moving towards a person, glaring, changing a baby's nappy whilst chatting, that sort of thing, so when I go back into the novel I need to pop all this business in. And every revision makes a novel better, so like I say I don't consider I have a complete novel, I have a complete working first draft, something to build from, something that in my past may easily have taken me a year to write. That's why I took the challenge, to give myself a bit of a kick up the backside and it worked. The minimum number of words I want to write a day now, unless I'm editing of course which is very different, is 3000. I think I have no excuse to write fewer than that. Of course I won't be doing that seven days a week though, I shall most definitely have weekends off!
Q : Would you do it again?
A : I definitely would, but this time I would do some serious preparation and I would also do it sponsored for charity. I thought about that when I was in the midst of the challenge, and I could really have kicked myself because I've always been a great believer in fundraising and don't mind putting in the extra hours to help out a favourite charity. I have been talking to David Robinson who is also considering doing it once a year, so you never know. Watch this space. Knowing what an inspiration David Robinson is, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it really takes off next year.
Q : Does your novel have a title?
A : Do you know that's something I hadn't even thought about? It doesn't even have a real working title I don't suppose. I saved it under Novel in a Week in Word, so I suppose that's its working title. It will be something sassy and sparkling in the end I'm sure. As I am working my way through the first revision, I would guess it'll tell me what it's called.
Q : Is there anything that you are particularly pleased with that has come out of being under so much pressure to write so quickly?
A : I am very excited about my first line. I know it probably sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I just love it. It immediately poses so many questions and possibilities, and, as the writer, it gave me the springboard that I needed to actually start. I think it's the opening line that enabled me to get through the seven days and 50,000 words without hitting writer's block.
Q : So are you going to tell me your opening line then?
A : Nope. Even though I'm very excited about it, it may change very slightly on the revision. As Stephen King says ‘your first draft is for your eyes only’ and I stick with that every time. You can be my friendly reader though and read my first revision!
So, there you have it – a novel in a week! If there’s anyone else out there who’s been through the same (or a similar) challenge and you’d like to share your experience with us, please let me have your comments in the section below. Until I archive July's posts (I'm working on it!) I'm afraid you'll have to scroll right down to the bottom of the page.
Or, if there’s something I forgot to ask Wendy and you’re still curious, let me have your question and I’ll see about getting it answered.
Meanwhile, my thanks to Wendy and I’m sure we’re all looking forward to reading the final result.