Writing Update #2

My temporary writing spot: Room IV, Leicester

How much can happen in one month? Apparently, a lot.

Since I posted by first writing update on 20th January, I have achieved my goal amount of words, had a writing tantrum, ate a LOT of cookies, vowed never to eat cookies again, ate more cookies, and got my first early readers to share advice. You may think it's too early but remember, the first 6,000 words of this novel are being submitted as my dissertation (eek!) so I need to have them polished by May. Ultimately, it's been a crazy month in terms of writing.

Last month, I was about to embark on reading Donna Tartt's The Secret History. I wasn't a huge fan (more on that in my February wrap up) and more so, I've finished reading all of the core novels which I planned as 'inspiration' and to consider critically. Remember, I also have to write an essay to go alongside my creative extract and mine is set to be on the conventions of crime writing for the young adult audience. Of course, there is never an end to the reading journey and I've continued to read at my usual rate, mostly devouring YA romances so I can consider how to structure that element amongst my main plotline. One of the most  interesting books I've picked up as research has been Ulster rugby player Stephen Ferris' autobiography Man And Ball. My protagonist is a competitive swimmer - something that before this I knew nothing about. I've interviewed a family friend who happens to have competed on a national level and been an Olympic contender but I wanted to also gain the perspective of someone looking back in hindsight over their career. Understanding, even to a small extent, what drives an athlete and how they deal with pressure has been invaluable.

Besides all of the great ideas I've been having, there has of course been the inevitable writing tantrum that always comes along at around this point. The excitement of the first words wore off and I began to realise what was ahead. I contemplated scrapping the whole thing and felt like I was drowning in self-doubt. Those moments are horrendous - but they end. 

What caused this panic? My worst writing enemy: structure.

If I've learnt one thing this month it's this: structure is really, really hard. Like, seriously. How do people get their brains around an entire novel, considering whether the order works, when to drop certain clues and whether to opt for flashbacks, flashforwards or chronology at every turn? To try and tackle this one step at a time I've put together a basic chapter plan (subject to change!) and considered the order of information using this formula which I only just learnt about:

Once upon a time...
Until one day...
And because of that...

The "and because of that"s go on until BOOM you have a story. You learn how to link every event to the next so that the forward momentum is consistent and engaging. Or at least, you hope it's engaging...

Writing young adult crime fiction has also left me struggling to balance. I don't mean my writing life (although that too) but how to integrate both YA and crime elements without letting one aspect take over and dominate. How much YA is too much? How can I get the crime to come in without sucking the YA voice away? I sat down to talk over the prologue and first chapter with the lovely Faber & Faber published children's author Steve Voake who is currently a Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa university. He gave me some great advice on how to implant mystery whilst not giving away all the answers straight away and taught  me the above structure. It's always inspiring to encouraged by a successful writer!

Well, onto another month of writing a novel. I wonder what challenges I'm going to up against in the next!

Love, Jess

Keep up with all the writing meltdowns and chat to me about all things books on twitter: @JessikahHope

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