Monday 12 July 2010

Do you have a novel in you?

For as long as I can remember, I've said that one day I will write a book. I just have had no idea what it is going to be about.

There was a moment when I lived in New York that I thought I had something. I was crossing 5th avenue with all the traffic and people zooming by, millions of busy ants. Like a bolt from the blue, I realised that I was ordinary. Just a person, no-one exceptional. Not terrible, but just another face in the crowd. Someone who hopefully would live a happy and contented life, possibly stirring things up a bit, making a difference, but probably not setting the world on fire. And it occurred to me that maybe that was my book: The Startling Reality of Being Ordinary.

But I couldn't flesh the idea out. I got stuck. What happens to this ordinary person? Does she simply come to terms with being ordinary? And if so, wouldn't that make for a terribly dull novel? Does she do something remarkable? What's the story? I told a colleague at the time about it (he had aspirations of being an author) and he said: "God, not another chick lit book." And just like that, I felt that door had closed.

Then after the birth of my first son, I started writing down my thoughts, thoughts that I felt sure could turn into something. Because the process of becoming a mother is so utterly remarkable that it must be worthy of capturing. Somehow. But muffled by sleep deprivation, my thoughts became cloudy and woolly and then lost altogether. And in hindsight I'm glad they did, because there are so many novels just like this, where the author has discovered the amazement of motherhood and felt compelled to share it with others, only to find that several billion other people on the planet have gone through the exact same thing and it's not that remarkable after all.

A few years later, frustrated beyond belief by my children's incredibly annoying habits, I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and knocked out two children's stories about two incredibly annoying children and their long suffering mother. They rhymed and everything. But they probably aren't what children want to read and the rhythm is clunky. They're still saved on this very pc, but I am not sure they will ever become more than folders in my directory.

I feel as though I've just gone through a library-ful of life experiences in the last few years with rich fodder for novels, yet nothing has as yet sparked me into creating something that has genuine potential. Mostly, it's because life takes over. I don't have time to flesh out characters and storylines, plots and intrigue.

I find reading any books - children's or adult fiction - both invigorating and slightly depressing. Ideas within books remind me (daily) about what else I could do, they trigger story ideas and re-ignite my determination to write something. Yet I always feel slightly dejected about the fact that the book I've just read is one less story idea open to me. And the fact that they've managed to do it and I haven't. Yet.

I'm probably making little sense (it's late) but I guess that's why I blog. I don't do it because I want to be a top rated blogger or try to earn a living from it. It's simply a way for me to capture those fleeting thoughts that stray through my head. Thoughts that could fit into a novel somewhere or somehow, but right now are best jotted down for that one day when they slot neatly together and present themselves as the novel I always knew was waiting within.


Julie Sardinetin said...

Oh my goodness, you have read my mind!

This is exactly it for me. I don't think I have the discipline (or, frankly the time these days) to ever be able to write that novel. Yet somehow I still feel and urge to put finger to keypad...

nappy valley girl said...

I have always thought that I would write a book, ever since I was a small child. Still haven't managed it - I went into journalism instead - but the hope is still there (although distinctly faded at the moment...). I feel the same about blogging; it's a great creative outlet.

Dorset Dispatches said...

I'd love to write a book, but everytime I read a book I know that I'm not good enough. But then a little bird says in the back of my mind, keep writing, keep practising, keep enjoying jotting down ideas. That is one of the reasons I blog - the other is that I love reading everyone else! x

Joanne said...

Me too me too me too!
Am taking a 'gap year', finally, next year for precisely this reason (though I can't see many gaps in my daily schedule!).
Highly recommend Louise Doughty's book A Novel in a Year.
Gives some top tips and a way of pulling together all those scraps of paper to make them The Book.
Good luck!

alison said...

Yes I feel the same as this. I am doing it this year. This is it. I have told my commenters and now there is no going back. Yikes!

I second the recommendation for Louise Doughty's book.

The Muddy Pool Monster said...

In SA we have a dearth of literary agents, but I found a woman in Durban and sent her three ideas:

A book about business solutions software (incredibly boring subject, right?) but written as a novel to make it more bearable;

The childrens book (Muddy Pool Monster and all;

The big novel based on the incredible story of the Village i.e. the Great South African novel!

She was fairly dismissive of the market for juniors, totally dismissive of the Great SA novel, but very interested in the first idea.

All I have to do is produce three chapters and a synopsis of the rest. Ja right!

Writing is 99% hard work and 1% creative inspiration. I think the answer is to take a day off from time to time and become totally immersed in the writing. Then get totally drunk to drown out the horror of it all, and start the cycle again!

Tim Atkinson said...

Well, I'm living proof it can be done and you've described all the frustrations I had before finally putting pen to paper and stopping 80,000 words later. Mind you, by then I'd stopped trying... maybe that's the secret?

Charlotte Castle said...

Funnily enough, I do have a novel in me. Quite a few. And the first one has just been published and is due out in days - hence my reason for stopping by your blog, I was wondering if you would like to review it?

If you are interested (or any other bloggers who happen to see this message) please do drop me a line either at or mrscharlottecastle (at) yahoo (dot) currently only offering e-books for review, I may also be able to get them to release a paperback in special circumstances.

I'd be delighted to hear from you and to give you more informaton. Whilst my publishers are cu

Happy blogging,


Charlotte Castle said...

sorry about the last line of that message. I have a new laptop and the mousey bit is in a funny place and I keep hitting it and deleting whole swathes of messages, or pasting bits in. Not great for a writer. I give it 2 days before it goes out the window.

Home Office Mum said...

JulieB - glad it's not just me

Nappy valley - my hope fades and then comes back whenever I read something that inspires me

Pantswithnames - I think blogging is great practice. It lets you exercise your creative writing muscles so to speak

Monzegirl - good for you taking a gap year. I'd LOVE to do that. And thanks for the book recommendation

Deer baby - let me know how you get on. Sounds like a bold, positive step!

Muddy Pool Monster - let's drink your wine over Christmas and find our inner novels. Maybe we can do novel-gazing instead of navel-gazing....

The Dotterel - 80 000 words!!! Good grief. Once you got started you just couldn't stop?

Charlotte - happy to review your book although can't promise to do it imminently as I prepare for summer holiday. If it was paperback it would be easier to read on summer holidays, but I'll email you. Well done for getting one out. If you have any tips for the rest of us, share!

Metropolitan Mum said...

Interesting read. I have been there so many times. And I think I do have the novel in me, I am actually trying to free it at the very moment. Time is my biggest enemy. I am trying to create little writing retreats for myself, where I do nothing but work on the novel. No phone. No internet!
Logging off now. Good luck!

Expat mum said...

I once read a quote from an author (I think) who said that most people want to "have written" a book but aren't prepared to put the work in. To some extent it's true (and it's the reason why I'm stuck on number two). Having had a book published, I'm here to say it really is hard work, but anyone (within reason) can do it.
You wouldn't believe the amount of people who tell me their book ideas (most of which are fabulous). There are a lot of great books sitting around in people's heads. Come on everyone - get writing!

Planethalder said...

I've taken the leap too. It's very scary but I'm so happy writing away all day. Good luck to you all!