« Suffolk Cheese | Main | The Ballad Of Harry Jemima »

Through Lattice Windows: Want To Write A Novel?

Leanne Hunt tells how she tackles the enormous task of writing a novel.

Last week, a friend with whom I was having coffee leaned over the table and asked excitedly, "So, tell me, how did you actually write your novel?"

I smiled, delighted to have an opportunity to share my secret. Actually, it's not really a secret at all, but it certainly feels like a piece of privileged information.

"I just put my head down and type as fast as I can," I told her. "The hardest thing is keeping going, not pausing to censor yourself or edit what you've just typed. That's my trick, and it's worked for five full-length books."

Of course, there's more to it than this. We discussed the event that sparked my decision to start writing Jozi Gold, which happened to be getting a new Apple laptop for Christmas. It really made me feel like a writer, prompting me to perform the part. Then there was the choice of a theme, which presented itself quickly, given the kinds of things I was mulling over at the time. Characters came next, because I enjoy character-driven stories. Finally, I outlined a rough plot based on a structure which had appealed to me from an Iris Murdoch novel, and I was set to go.

This all took me about three hours. I went to bed feeling exhilarated, eager to begin my writing project. The next day, I began typing out Chapter 1 according to my plot outline, and things proceeded from there.

But the point is, when I was in creation mode, I didn't let myself shift into editor mode. If I did, I became critical and lost heart. The only way to keep believing in my manuscript was to stay focused on getting the story down. It took determination and courage. Sometimes, I would cringe at what was landing on the page, knowing that whatever anger, hurt, disappointment, grief and longing I dredged up was undeniably part of myself. It taught me a lot about where I was on an emotional level.

The great thing was, though, I got to the end of the story with something which pulsed with emotion. obviously, it still needed a lot of editing, a process which can take months in itself, but I had a first draft, a raw product, a rough diamond. That is why I answered my friend's question with such enthusiasm. It really isn't hard to write a novel, providing you are prepared to do what Scott Fitzgerald said, "open up an artery and bleed".

There is an outfit in the United States called the Office of Letters and Light, which runs the National Novel Writing Month in November each year. It is an online challenge open to anyone around the world. The entrants commit to writing about 2000 words a day without any editing or rewriting. The project is designed to help writers get their story down, and they support one another throughout the arduous four-week period. September is the month of preparation for NaNoWriMo, so if you are interested, be sure to visit the OLL website. http://www.lettersandlight.org/


To buy a copy of Leanne's novel Jozi Gold please click on


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.