A few weeks ago I joined a Mini-Novel Writing course. I’ve always been an organic plotter- meaning I never really knew what was going on in my longer pieces of writing or where they would end up. Writing a novel was like a detective story, exciting to see what happens next and it was heaps of fun. Until it wasn’t. It got really frustrating not finishing it. I had thousands and thousands of words, but they drifted and flowed and didn’t actually get anywhere. When I cut 20,000 words because I realised that character was irrelevant I knew something was very wrong. I’d never formally studied writing. I’d studied literature, so had a pretty good idea of story, but writing is a different thing.
So I switched track and started teaching. That was fun. I drew on my degree and taught contextual studies, the where story, art and theology and philosophy meet in film. Then I got pulled into a world of teaching and learning support. Which taught me 2 things, how to earn money and how to run my own business. After I while I invested some of that money and time into me. I did my Masters in Creative Writing, which I was so excited about. However it wasn’t anything like it said on the tin. However, the positives were that I learnt to run a workshop, and knew I could churn out words when needed.
After that I was completely blocked, but luckily started at a School of Creativity, and that got me thinking and wanting to write again. This whole webpage tells that tale. I started this at the Art School and significantly I started to teach Creative writing weekend classes and started up a writing group. To teach writing, I researched and read a great book on novel writing (John Truby’s The Anatomy of a Story) and I switched track again, this time to short stories. This was mainly working with the creativity students and realising creatives can’t just do one-offs, you need to build a body of work. So with the writing group as a creative resource and accountability, I worked on creating a body of work and over the past three years have built confidence in my creativity and my writing.
And even as I signed up for this novel writing course, I was starting to think seriously about what I was actually doing with the scraps and pieces of novel I had been creating, so the timing has been perfect. I know it’s only a 6 week course, and realistically that is a drop in the novel writing ocean, but so far it’s been awesome. Being quite organic in my ways, structure for me is more like a three dimensional spider web than a linear plot for me, so I‘d been avoiding and dreading writing a plot. But the 10 point plot is just a good size, not too big, not too small. And, after years of writing, I know it is just a draft, I can change it if I want, and that’s fab. But, right now, I actually have an ending in sight and I really like it.
Why did I resist it so hard before? I think I was too busy (over) working the characters and exploring how they interacted without realising it’s actually how they interact in the end that matters. And I suppose that’s because we live our lives forwards. We don’t know our endings, we uncover them as we go along, so in one way writing is backwards. But I can live with that. In writing we need to know the end to be able to see what story we’re telling and I love that I’ve learnt this. Really cool. Thank you, Amanda Saint, of Retreat West. And still more lessons to go! Exciting.