Tag Archives: how to write

General update on the adventures of an aspiring novelist

6 Aug

Again, I’m pretty sure these sorts of posts are more of a way to reassure myself than entertaining for others.

Recently, I hit a severe writer’s block.  I had got roughly halfway and I found myself at a complete standstill.  I would sit at my desk (or more likely, in my bed), willing myself to write anything but it was hopeless.  The few disjointed sentences I was able to produce were so appalling, they disheartened me more and frustrated, I pushed my laptop aside and stewed in my own melancholia.

I started doubting the storyline – was it actually convincing? interesting? worth reading? – and then I noticed all sorts of plotholes/ inconsistencies and felt unable to move on any further.  I started this draft back in January without a proper plan, just a rough idea of the protagonist, her dilemma and a general timeline of events.  And while I do think this organic approach has major benefits, mainly its spontaneity and the room it allows for characters to become fully alive, there is something to be said for a good plan.

I know some people are rather OCD on things like this and organise the notes of their notes etc.  But what has helped me immensely is a book by author and writing coach, Harry Bingham, ‘How to Write’.  I have read so many guides purporting to help you hone your writing skills but this is by far the best.  The title’s a little misleading insofar as it doesn’t tell you how to write – Bingham explicitly states that this isn’t a ‘creative writing’ book – but it gives you practical no-nonsense advice on what a good book (fiction or non-fiction) requires.  In fact, it’s so no-nonsense and matter of fact that I initially thought it was rather cynical.  However, Bingham obviously preempted that some readers may feel this and addressed his tone appropriately.  Plus, it was genuinely refreshing to read a book on writing that didn’t have the same old pieces of advice (buy a notebook, choose whether you want to write longhand or type it on a computer).. I learnt a lot.

One of the things I did learn actually helped to push me out of my weird I-hate-writing funk.  Bingham broke down Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ into chapters and described what happened in each chapter and how this moved the story forwards.  What was emphasised was the fact that MOTION (and not necessarily conflict) is KEY to writing a good novel.  He advises writers to summarise each chapter of their novel in two or three sentences and to test its soundness, you need to question whether it alters the protagonist’s relationship with their goal in any way?  If it does, great.  Your chapter is not simply drivel.  However, if it doesn’t, get rid of it.  Or hone it so it does reflect movement and a changing relationship between the protagonist and their objective.

Using Bingham’s advice, I was able to test the soundness of the chapters I had written already and create a structure for the second half of my book which has proved invaluable in eradicating my writer’s block.

An amazing book and I would recommend this, above all others, to be read by all aspiring writers everywhere.  For now I am pushing on and cannot wait until I finish my first draft.  My fingers are already itching to make edits and rewrite as appropriate…