Writing a novel

Writing a novel

Josh and I recently moved from D.C. to Hampton, Va., for his job, and I have yet to find a job of my own. After several years of work, then grad school, then an internship for the summer, I finally have time on my hands. I used to write a lot of fiction and poetry and I just haven’t had time to dedicate to it in years. One evening, I started searching the internet for events in the area, and I found that a group of writers was meeting at the public library to talk about their novels. And it being November, National Novel Writing Month, a few writers in the area had decided to try to write 50,000 words in a month.

This is not actually a Danielle Steel book. My friend binds books and he made this journal for me out of a Danielle Steel cover.

This is not actually a Danielle Steel book. My friend binds books and he made this journal for me out of a Danielle Steel cover.

I’d thought of participating in this novel writing month in the past, but never really had time for it. Now I do! I started writing. But it’s so hard to even remember what actually goes into a novel when you sit down to write one. I’ve read so many, but I never really paid attention to how the plot is actually weaved together. With help from the other writers in the group, I decided to start by combining a bunch of short stories I’ve written. A lot of them are about my family or other families that I’ve gotten to know. I like to explore what makes us who we are–and how siblings can be so different despite coming from the same family. I pulled together all of my stories into one document and started combining them. Having a word count from the beginning also made me feel a little better about starting a week into November.

OK fine, this picture is posed. I don't actually look that serious when I read children's books.

OK fine, this picture is posed. I don’t actually look that serious when I read children’s books.

I started writing about my childhood, pulling together so many memories of my sisters and my childhood friends and trying to make a plot structure out of them. It reminded me a lot of Little Women, a book I loved as a child. I decided to reread it and use the book as a sort of guide to how a novel is structured. For instance, the book begins with an entire scene of dialogue. And on the first page, the conflict is already there! The girls are thinking of their Dad on Christmas, who is off fighting a war and they don’t know what is going to come of him.

While reading, I started making notes in a journal about plot structure and other literary tools, like dialogue and scene setting–all of things that I’ve been taught in creative writing classes but that are so much easier to just learn by doing. I write down thoughts and ideas for my own novel that I get while reading another one. I have a place to brainstorm, and then I type the actual novel in a Word document that begins, “A Novel, by Jessica Wilde.” Good motivation!

Check back in and see if I actually manage to finish this thing by the end of the month. Regardless, it’s a fun project.