Learnings From 20,000 Feet

First 20,000 words of an actual novel have been written, by me. Shoooweee, who would have thunk! The main characters have colour, the story line is taking shape and I’m feeling pretty darn good!

Here are a few things I have learnt so far. I would so love to hear your thoughts too, let’s chat in the comments!?

1 — Modern Technology Is Your Friend

I do like the idea of using an old typewriter to carve out a novel. The clatter of keys; the enthusiastic ping as you reach the end of a line and the mechanical whirr as you create a new one, all provide a kind of old-style legitimacy to the process. I have, however, chosen modern practicality over historical eccentricity. My trusted laptop with its cloud back up and auto-save feature keep me anxiety free as I type away to my hearts content, safe in the knowledge that nothing will be lost. Paragraphs are easily created, altered, and deleted in unison with the ebb and flow of creativity.

I have made firm friends with Mr Google and his gang of globally accessible resources as well as Mr Thesaurus, a world renown wordsmith from the land of Microsoft. I sincerely could not do without either of them. I must remember to write them both into my acceptance speech one day LOL. One note of warning, Mr Google has some less than savoury friends in his repertoire, so make sure you verify that your chosen sources are reputable.

2 — Create a Space to Write

The first few weeks were a bit of a challenge, I found that my mind would wander off down a story line whilst I was supposed to be doing my day job. A few years back as a contractor, I had to create a mental separation between my home life and work life to ensure one did not encroach on the other. To do this I created a work environment at home in the form of a fully functional and dedicated study. I still work mainly from home so to achieve the same result for writing, I now have a space that is dedicated to work and other spaces where I write.

I seem to be most creative here at my small patio, my primary writing spot. It’s quiet, I have the view of my tiny garden, the scent of jasmine hangs in the springtime air and my two boxer dogs Mia and Tucker happily keep me company. My secondary spot at the dining room table is not so pretty but helps when the weather does not permit the use of the patio.

3 — Dedicate Time to Write

Life and all its activities are not going to stop because you are writing a book. It couldn’t care less if you finish your novel or not.  So, unless you make writing a priority it will not happen. There was a 12-month gap since I started writing my novel to when I picked it back up a few months ago. Why? Because I allowed everything and everyone else to become more important. Its easier than you would think for that to happen, especially when you are a mom, a girlfriend, a friend, and an employee / manager … oh and need a social life and like to keep fit too!

So now I apply the principle that author and Pulitzer Prize winner Herman Wouke followed:

I try to write a certain amount each day, five days a week. A rule sometimes broken is better than no rule

Herman Wouk

In my world this means that I write early in the morning before work or in the evening after work and at weekends. Essentially whenever time permits. And guess what … I get the other important stuff done too!

4 — Don’t Marry an Idea

To write, re-write, polish and re-polish is the natural order of things. I realise there is nothing worse than having to scrap an entire well written chapter or brilliant concept because it no longer fits into the story line. My tip; don’t try and hack it back in, just breathe and let it go. The next chapter and the overall story will be better because of it, and you will be less frazzled, I promise.

Because I was so invested in it, I spent ages unsuccessfully trying to force a narrative that just didn’t work anymore. What helped me to eventually let it go was to store it in another folder. Now it is not lost, it’s just resting, waiting for its rightful place on the perfect page.

Sometimes the words flow, sometimes they do not. But what I do know for sure is that life is good and I am grateful to be alive!

Look forward to chatting!

Janine (J9) Nijs

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