What changed my mind
Writing my doctoral thesis gave me an incredible amount of satisfaction. I’m not so much talking about finishing it but rather about the process itself. I liked the satisfaction of writing something and feeling the progress of the project. I liked the satisfaction of looking at the work in progress and seeing something grow out of nothing. I liked the satisfaction of proof-reading a chapter and feeling like the text was well-written, well-structured and overall not so bad. I want to feel these things again while working on a project that I care more about than my doctoral dissertation. Something tells me writing more books would be a rewarding activity.
When I started looking around the internet to figure out how best to tackle these kind of projects I found some very useful tools and methods that gave me the confidence that I can break this incredibly daunting task into manageable bits.
It starts with mind-mapping your novel which allows you to brainstorm about the different aspects of your story without getting lost in your head and forgetting those brilliant ideas that you had. I broke up the novel into four main categories (characters, plot, settings, timeline) and started fleshing out the details of the book. I managed to capture the shadows of my ideas and write them down in a way that will allow me to tackle the writing in a structured way.
It wasn’t the first time that I mind-mapped a novel but the first attempt was a disaster. I got stuck mind-mapping and never created any structure. In the end the idea for that first novel grew so immense that it could never be written. This time around, I found a more concise plot that allowed me to work on structure much quicker and break it up into chapters. For the first time I saw an actual story-arc that could make sense. I understood much better how to divide things over the timeline and how to make things come full-circle. Even though a lot of the creativity is still ahead of me, at least I’ve created a framework. I know where every chapter begins and ends and I know how much the story needs to progress over a chapter. I’ve created manageable pieces of writing.
I’ve also better understood how to take my writing more seriously. It is important to create a certain habit, to create a fixed timeslot where I sit down and focus on writing this novel. I can spend a lot of time thinking about how I want to write things, researching the necessary details to make a specific scene more plausible and working out the evolution I want my characters to go through… but at fixed times in the week I need to sit down without any distraction and write. I’m not sure yet whether to put a fixed timeslot on those writing sessions or whether to place a fixed word-count on the sessions but from my first session I’ve learned that it’s not always easy to get to a word-count. Probably not putting the bar too high early-on is a good idea. I might just get discouraged otherwise.
Since the girlfriend will be spending parts of her Saturdays taking cooking classes with her friends, I should be able to spend at least an equal amount of time behind my laptop writing. That way we both feel like we’re able to spend our weekends doing what we love even when we’re away from the one we love most.
But most of all I understood the dangerous effect of consuming media rather than creating it. From January onwards I will have a 45-60 minute drive to work every morning. My idea was to listen to podcasts during that time in order to spend those lost hours doing something useful. I think that the better use of my time would however be to think about my story, think about my characters and the way I want to write my novel.
I may occasionally update you on the progress I make in this project. I may occasionally still write a blog post when I want some instant gratification. But hopefully, I will focus my energy on writing a longer piece of fiction in 2013…