The other Saturday I attended a novel-writing ‘booster’ workshop with the author, Martin Davies at Mackworth library.
The aim was to build on what we had learnt earlier in the year at his ‘starter’ workshop .
Martin set lots of exercises to get the pen moving over the page and thus prove to ourselves that ‘writing’ isn’t some wonderful magical gift that you must have in bucket loads in order to succeed – instead tenacity is one of the qualities most useful to a writer.
Once again Martin was very generous with his advice and I came away with the following tips jotted down:
- If a minor character is feeling 2-dimensional, give him an unusual hobby to flesh him out
- Before you begin your novel, write a 2 sentence or ‘elevator’ pitch – and repeat this exercise at regular intervals to make sure you’re not going off at a tangent
- The odd observed detail will bring your settings and characters to life – not swathes of description
- When setting a scene, mention one big thing e.g. the mountain that dominated the landscape, and one small thing e.g. the cigarette burn on the table-cloth.
- Finish the first draft without looking back over your work AT ALL
- In preparation for the second draft print out the manuscript and read it through, marking any corrections/changes as you go – don’t change anything yet because you’ll lose the momentum of how the story flows. When you’ve read & marked to the end you can begin changing the text. Repeat this as many times as necessary.
- Read aloud to check the flow of the story.
- Write what you feel excited and moved by.
- Don’t tell other people what your novel is about – it will make it feel stale to you.
So now I’m trying to pluck up the courage to go back to the Pocket Novel that I completed in the summer. I need to turn that rough first draft into something comprehensible – or maybe I’ll decide that it’s rubbish and bin it! But, as Martin said, no writing is wasted – it’s all practice for better writing.
#1 by Patsy Collins (@PatsyCollins) on October 24, 2011 - 5:25 pm
Good luck with your pocket novel. I enjoy that stage of editing – when you have a story but it’s such a mess you can’t help but improve it (at least my first drafts are a complete mess – perhaps yours aren’t)
#2 by susanjanejones on October 24, 2011 - 6:33 pm
Hi Sally, thanks for sharing this with us. I like the idea of one large thing, and one small thing. Wouldn’t have thought of that. Also, writing the whole story is a great idea. I think if you try to hard to get a polished chapter 1, it’s too boring to carry on. (My efforts are at least.) Good luck with the pocket novel.
#3 by Sally Jenkins on October 24, 2011 - 7:43 pm
Patsy – yes, my first draft is a complete mess!
Susan – also, working too hard to get chapter one just right before going any further might be a complete waste of time if the emphasis of the novel changes as you write it.