Old Habits… (and Part 2 of the Start That Novel Course)

At school I was a terror for leaving all my weekend homework till Sunday afternoon. Even now, I can really remember that looming dread which would start to build up after lunchtime… It would seem, some fifteen years later, that some habits never go away, as today is Sunday, and I’ve only just got round to doing my homework for the Greenacre Writer’s Start That Novel course, in time for tomorrow evening.

Now, this was nice homework, and not of the physics and algebra variety that I hated so much as a kid, yet I still left it till the last minute. Sometimes I wonder how I’ve ever managed to complete a piece of writing given my tendency to always put things off, yet, as with all writing related tasks, once I get into them, I hugely enjoy doing them.

Rosie, who leads the class asked us to look at as many novels at home as possible and write out the first sentance of the narrative. The books I chose are here:

More Books

If you notice that a lot of them are for children and involve magic, that’s because this is the type of book I want to write. (Having said that, Affinity is definitely not for children, but is pretty other worldly). This was a very intersting task and certainly made me think about the importance of that first sentance – it has to grab the reader and hook them in immediately. How many of us pick up a book in the bookshop, then glance at the first few lines to see if it appeals? That first line has to be a winner, or we might as well not bother writing the rest of the story… I’m now not sure at all about the first line of my current W.I.P, but hopefully tomorrow’s session will help me make it the best it can possibly be.

During last week’s session, we thought about the planning of our novels and, most importantly, the point of entry we choose for the story’s beginning. Rosie told us about the ‘inciting incident’, which can be described as ‘an event that radically upsets the balance of your character.’ It might ignite the character’s desire or force them to take action in the pursuit of a goal. This gets our stories started and should also hook in the reader, so they want to know what happens next.

Rosie also encouraged us to get to know our characters and their worlds better and with the help of plain paper and pens, we drew maps of the worlds our character’s live in and then thought about how they respond and react to their surroundings. I found this to be a really useful excerise. I’ve been imagining my main character’s world for some time now, but to see a visual representation of it was really inspiring. However, a degree of imagination is definitely still required, as speaking of old habits, this excercise also made me realise that I still draw people, houses, trees, dogs and cars in exactly the same way as I did when I was about six years old (and as for the dragon, I can’t even tell you what it looked like…). Suddenly my school days don’t seem so long ago after all…

Thank you, Rosie and everyone in the group. Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Old Habits… (and Part 2 of the Start That Novel Course)

  1. Sounds a great writers course… the last bit anyway. The only thing that puts me off joining a readers group is ‘having to’ read a particular book by a time. I like to read for pleasure and to relax. As a writer though we can learn so much through reading. Several of my readers said they’d like a map but a map with the characters on etc sounds fun. Oh, the memories……melting my protracting pencil when doing homework by candle light during the miners dispute! Thanks Alice

  2. Thanks, Diana. Homework by candle light sounds weird, but cool too! I read with a book club, though we’re very informal about it – it’s been years and we’re really just a bunch of friends who meet every month in the pub to muse about a book we’ve all read (then always end up chatting about other things too…) There’s usually at least one person who hasn’t read or hasn’t finished the book and has just come to socialise! I’ve found some really good reads through it (though admittedly some less great ones too!!)

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