Monday, 1 December 2014

Gazing at the mountain

The more I think about writing a book, the more enormous and impossible it seems. I feel a bit overwhelmed.

A book! A novel, 80,000 words or thereabouts, with characters who need to become real. A story where present day and back-story are interwoven, where plot is gradually revealed, shown, not told, and characters say things and do things,  make mistakes and develop. A living thing, three-dimensional, with the power to lure readers in and prevent them from leaving. To immerse them in the story and make them laugh, or cry, or gasp, or want just one more chapter before sleep.

I want it to be good.

Can I do that?  Really?

It seems so huge. Like a vast, towering mountain, so high that the air is thin at the top. I'm just trekking in towards Base Camp and already feeling horribly ill-equipped to scale the thing in front of me. I have crampons and ropes and those little clippy gadgets that dangle from climbers' belts but I don't have the first idea how to use them.

It seems so intimidatingly big. There's going to be a lot of looking at this mountain and trying to find out all I can about it before I pull on my boots and put one foot in front of the other. I don't even know which direction to set out in.

Where do I start?

Well, I'm setting up camp at the bottom of this mountain and I'm realising that I won't get to the top in one go. It's too far, and too tricky. I need to break this task down into smaller ones, and then subdivide the smaller tasks into even littler ones. That's the way to do it. Make it less overwhelming, by having smaller, attainable goals. Camp One, Camp Two....

Kind of like a protractor, with the degrees marked off one by one, in fives and tens and so on. Nought to 180 (or 360?) in a series of tiny sections. A mountain marked off in degrees.

I can't begin to get my head around a project of this size. I can't just sit down and start writing (though I know that some people do just that). I have so much going on with other stuff; family and other commitments, that I don't have that much time for writing. I'm going to need to be fairly disciplined and structured in the way I do it because I don't have the flexibility to 'go with the flow' and write as inspiration takes me; rather I'm going to find myself with the odd hour and I'll have to learn to use it as efficiently as I can.

I need to find a way to break the huge task down into smaller chunks. If I can do that, then writing it in pieces might work. If I get to know my story well enough, I hope to be able to sit down on a free morning and know that my plan for that session is to get the plot from there. This is the scene where such-and-such happens. Write that scene.

From one mark on the protractor to the next.

This is my theory. I'm used to writing short blog posts, and so small pieces are familiar territory to me. 100,000 words of structured novel is totally beyond me; I have to find a way to make it manageable.

Bit by bit.  Step by step. The longest journey starts with a single step...

That must be how mountains are climbed.

Image by cohdra (cohdra_100_2045.JPG) courtesy of 
Used with permission.

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