Writing a Novel – Character and Story

Ponies at Penmaen

I’m remaining very open minded about this novel I’m writing.  It may not even be a novel.  It could be a novella.  Once I have the basic story on the page, I will stand back and examine where I can add branches and background, where and whether I can develop certain characters.  I don’t want to force any of it.  It’s a long time since I wrote anything with such a high word count, so I am taking it slowly and trying to make natural progress.

Ponies at Penmaen
My main character does a lot of walking on country lanes, so I thought this picture was apt. It was taken at Penmaen, Swansea.
Photograph: K. S. Moore.

My personal feeling is that the main character is all important.  I’ve read quite a few novel-writing articles and they seem to agree with my sentiments.  Obviously, I’ve written a detailed character sketch and completed a few ‘character’ based exercises.  One I found particularly useful for gaining insight is called ‘The Things they Carry’.  This is where you imagine the contents of your protagonist’s bag.  Try it.  It’s quite fascinating.

Sometimes, I get bogged down with writing and I wonder if I’m suited to this kind of project.  I’m impulsive, impatient and have a great love of poetry.  What if I should stick to writing shorter pieces?  But then I remember that this is a great idea and my characters deserve to have their story told.  I also remember that I have written novels before.  I am able to do this.

A challenge which keeps presenting itself is detail.  For example – the geography of my novel’s setting and the day to day routines of one main character.  If you’re a regular reader, I’ve mentioned him before – he’s a farmer.  Of course I’ve done some farming research and as an added benefit, I live in the countryside, surrounded by cattle-filled fields.  Also, my husband has experience in looking after livestock, so he has been a great help so far.  However, I feel as though I need to know more. But rather than pause to do further reading, I’m going to plough on and aim to increase authenticity in the second draft.

Now is the time to prioritise creativity – get words onto the page, even if they don’t always make sense.  This way, the story will move forward and I will move with it.  I’m enjoying seeing my characters come to life and interact with each other in ways I never imagined.  I hope they continue to surprise me right up until the end, because that’s the real delight of being a writer and the true enemy of self doubt.



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