Meet Winter, a character in a novel I’ve been writing while I travelled.
When I was a teenager, I used to write prolifically and unselfconsciously, churning out story after story. People noticed my passion and encouraged it. I studied short story writing as a correspondance course (this was pre-internet!) and my teachers let me hand in work, such as research on the topic of schizophrenia, in the form of a novel. With the attention and help my writing was getting, I started to set the bar higher and higher for myself. And eventually I set it so high, demanded I write so well, even in my very first draft, that it became daunting instead of fun. I stopped writing.
When Allen and Unwin came to see The Grimstones, they contacted me and asked if I’d like to write a book. I got back into my writing, and I’m really glad to have embraced it again. However, I usually write professionally, for an audience, whether its on my blog, for magazines such as Grass Roots and Down to Birth, or books that will be published. The bar is still high. I just don’t let my dauntedness stop me.
But I’ve never quite regained the joyous fun I felt in writing when I was a teenager. After reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, I was inspired by her project to write a novel, NANOWRIMO style, just for fun. Like Rubin, I immediately downloaded the founder, Chris Baty’s book, No Plot? No Problem! and became inspired.
While Baty suggests diving in without a plot, I used the Snowflake Method Of Novel Writing to help me develop my ideas. I’ve used this before and it was recommended to me by my publisher, which tells me it results in a structure for a novel that is the kind of thing they like to sell.
I had this idea that I’d write a novel for fun while travelling. It didn’t have to be any good. Just enjoyable to write. I wanted to write like I did as a teenager – fun and open and as a way of living another life. To make it even more enjoyable, I decided to tie it in with my trip by designing scenes in the places I would be visiting, in the same order as I would travel. That way I could collect up details while I was in each location, write those scenes in my novel, and then move on to the next place.
Did it work? Yes! My novel has been a wonderful companion for me as I’ve travelled, and gave me a superb focus for picking up cultural details in the places I visited. There’s a lot of waiting, when travelling, a lot of queues and airports and trains and busses. My novel gave me something riveting to think about while in transit. I couldn’t write every day. Some days I was too busy, and some days I was too jetlagged and out of it. But I did more or less keep up with the scenes I wanted to write in each location.
It’s not finished yet. When I arrived home it was maybe two thirds of the way there. The last scenes are set in Australia so that works out well! But life is much busier here. Still, it’s been a wonderful thing, to practise writing without worrying about anyone else, without trying to make it good or choose my words carefully. Maybe one day I’ll go back and edit it and bring it up a level, then think about whether it’s publishable or not. But for now, the main thing is to finish it and enjoy the journey as I do so.
Chris Baty’s book has chapters you can read as you write. I’ve found them very encouraging. Just when I’m thinking, oh I can’t be bothered to do this, I read a little chapter that says, ‘Don’t worry about trying to meet your word limit. Just get into your novel, have a little poke around, write 500 words or so, and leave the rest for another day.’ A little poke around even when ridiculously tired.. that’s been very good.
Are you tempted to write a novel (or story, or memoir or whatever) just for fun? Any thoughts and experiences? I’d love to hear your take on this.