One of my dictionaries firstly defines the word “novel” to mean “hitherto unknown”, and that is exactly how I feel as I take on the task of writing my first novel. While I have written many other pieces over the years, nothing has come close to this in its need for dedication and creative thinking. One of my contacts in the digital world suggested I also put into words that journey towards writing and publishing a novel. I have resisted that for a couple of months now, but seeing as I am now on page 80 of same, perhaps now is the time.
It is also the time to own up to the fact that the memoire that I have been writing is now some 10 years old, and I am not half way though it yet. In some respects, that makes me somewhat of a failure in the writing stakes, although, as some wise person said, “Rome was not built in a day”.
The question of writing a novel did not even enter my consciousness until about November last year, when, for some strange reason, the idea entered my head. Up until that time I had volunteered at our local school for about 15 hours over 3 days every week, acting as a high school teacher aide. After some 12 years in that role I thought it time to change my focus, and after giving my notice, I started to look at alternatives. Who would have thought? Writing a novel! Where did that crazy idea come from?
In any event, as the school term did not finish until mid December and the Christmas holidays were coming, it seemed that a good time to start would be in February 2022. In the meantime, where does one start this process? Mr. Google seemed to be the answer, so on the computer I went. There is a wide, wide world out there if you look hard enough, sometimes providing too much information to easily comprehend. If I was to write a novel, what type of novel would it be? That answer in itself seemed hard to come to grips with.
After much deliberation, I thought that I should use some of my somewhat unique 20 year accumulation of knowledge of Norfolk Island and its history. I lived there for that length of time and its unique history has always fascinated me. I will not bore you, the reader, of that history at this stage, but if you want to know more, just use you favorite search engine. With the benefit of personal information and knowledge I decided that writing a historical novel would be the way to go. As its recent human history goes back to 1788, I felt this was a good place to start. I decided to commence my story in Plymouth in England in 1786 with the two main characters living there unbeknown to one another. They would then move on to Norfolk Island via ship and Sydney Australia, where they would eventually meet. That’s it. No more of the story – you will just have to read the book.
If you are going to write a historical novel, you had better get as much of the historical information as you can, correct. That meant contacting historical groups, using the internet and going through my library of books on that subject. My file is now quite thick and the research certainly has helped me in forming the time and place.
Where does one start? Once I had sorted out the time line, I now needed to work on an outline of the story from start to finish. You need to put some flesh on the bones of the main characters and at least work out where and when they feature. From my experience so far, I think you can be over prescriptive in this regard, as I am finding I am slightly moving away from what I first thought. The main characters have not changed, but the detail I first put down has altered as the characters “come to life”
And that is another aspect of writing of novel that I did not expect. How the characters become, in your own mind at least, quite real, is an odd feeling. You can sometimes wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how they would think and react to a certain situation, as though they were real people in your life. They become a part of your sub-conscience, and they can pop up at any time.
I try and not think too far ahead as I am writing as I believe that it is beneficial to let the characters live their lives though your immediate thinking. The basic story line needs to continue regardless, so don’t let your imagination stray too far. I am sure there are many ways for writers to progress their stories, but mine just seems to flow best using that technique. Of course the quality of the end result has yet to be proven.
My characters have not yet left Plymouth, but the reasons how and why they move on is now being developed. The next 10 pages should see them sailing away.
If there are any out there who wish to make comment or suggestions, please do not hesitate, as one can always learn from the experience of others.
Until next time!