Novel by Accident

This week, CWC member Jackie Juno tells us all about how she has begun writing a novel by accident.

“I always said I could never write a novel. I mean, all those words! All that planning, figuring out the plot, going in depth into everything, setting aside a million months to do it… no. I will stick to poems and short stories, a bit of flash fiction. Much easier to cope with. Not too epic. Never had the staying power. Always been impatient. Happy to start projects, oh yes, tons of them. But finish them off? See them through? Occasionally. If they’re not too daunting.

But this novel snuck up on me. Crept up when I wasn’t looking and pounced. But how, you may ask?

Well. Here’s how. I run Creative Writing classes online via Zoom. Every week I set different tasks. We write during the 90 minutes and there is time to share what we have created. There is also time for discussion, advice, feedback sometimes.

One week in July I set everyone a task to write something to bring back and share with the group the following week. We were all to use one of the Fiction Squares I have created.

Using dice, you throw twice to get two characters, then again for traits, again for location, conflict and object. This gives you ingredients to make a story. A story that perhaps you wouldn’t normally think of to write, but which forces you out of your comfort zone.

After setting the homework, I thought I would have a go too.

So when I threw the dice, I found my ingredients and began writing. My usual short story is a couple of thousand words or so. All well and good. But ah. This short story seems to end on a cliff-hanger. I shared it with the group the following week. Everyone seemed to say to me ‘Oh, that’s the beginning of a novel! I want to know what happens next!’ And I of course laughed it off.

But their words echoed through my brain, planting seeds of possibility. Oh dear. Maybe it was the beginning of a novel!

Well, I had nothing to lose, so I treated what I had written as though it really was going to be the beginning of a novel. I jotted down notes which formed a rough outline of plot. I saw where each chapter needed to start and finish. Lots of ideas came to me and suddenly I was excited. I wanted to write it!

With no pressure, expectation, deadline or fear, I am happily writing away, expanding the story, getting to know the characters, revelling in the fun of it all! I have reached around 30,000 words so far. I am not entirely sure if there will be a great deal more as I am nearing the end of getting down the storyline. I plan to go back to the start and flesh out the characters and provide more sense of place once the main story is down. So it may end up being more novella length rather than novel. But whatever it is or will be, the process is fascinating and fun (so far!)

I am really enjoying being taken on this adventure. It is making me approach the writing in a different way to a poem or short work.

I am a member of several writing groups. One of them was specifically created to give each other detailed feedback, to assist our work to be the very best it can be. There are only four of us in this group but the focus and guidance it provides is so useful! I am glad I have somewhere to get such thorough response as I feel a bit out of my depth in the novel-writing world. And where it will lead remains to be seen.

But watch this space!”

Jackie Juno

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