The perils of starting a new novel

I’m about to start my third novel. Well, to be honest, I was about to start my third novel two months ago, but since then I’ve been busy down by editing my other novels, speaking at the literary festival and running Five Stop Story.

I may have been procrastinating about starting. You see this time I want to get it right from the beginning. I’ve spent so much of my life editing over the past few years and it’s really not my favourite thing.

This time I have visions about getting it right first time. A world where the first draft just needs wording tweaks rather than an entire restructure and character personality transplants.

So out came all the books on “how to be a writer” which I have accumulated over the years and never actually really read (with hindsight, perhaps a mistake.) But now I have read them and I’m thoroughly confused.  

There’s one book called “16 steps to novel writing success” which I’m split between loving and hating. On the one hand it’s great – it gives you 16 steps which almost guarantee success. On the other hand I get the feeling that the kind of book that would come out of this process is not one I’d want to read. It would be – well – formulaic.

The other books are similarly systematic in their approach. And while sometimes I like following a system, when I’m writing it can feel restrictive and take a lot of the fun out of the process.

So I’ve read a lot of books on writing and now I’ve switched from procrastinating about the subject and plot of the novel to procrastinating about which rules I should follow and which I should disobey. Will ignoring one of the 16 steps to success mean my novel will only ever be destined for the slush pile? I hope not.

In the meantime, instead of thinking about writing, maybe, one day, I might actually start writing the book….

3 thoughts on “The perils of starting a new novel

  1. Ooh, toughie, Ruth. Hmm? I suspect in editing and re-editing and delicate character transplantation :), you may have been applying some of the steps retrospectively. Why not start by seeing which boxes you have ticked, and which worked for you, and applying those as you go? Rules can never be rigidly applied in writing (imho). That can only stem the creativity. People who produce these books are qualified in that they’ve “been there”, but I would view the advice as a sort of framework to build my book on (Leanne says wisely!). Good luck ~ and go for it!

  2. Pingback: The perils of starting a new novel ? Ponderings, paranoia and … | opisevekef

  3. I try to read those books to help me edit *after* I’ve written the novel. If I try to help myself write it with those books, I end up stuck. And overwhelmed. And annoyed!