I remember it was around this time last year when Nick Forster asked me if I thought he was ready to tackle writing a novel. He’d participated in several of my 4-week workshops (mystery and suspense, sci fi and fantasy, young adult) but tackling a 75,000 word novel is a much larger project than a 3,000 word short story.
Well, I encouraged Nick to take the Write Your First Novel Now workshop because I knew he could write in sections and I knew he was able to write without letting fear get in the way too much.
Before the workshop was over, he’d written the first draft of his novel Marine Space: The Fury of Xero Nekton. It was so much fun reviewing his sections in the workshop, and everyone loved this high-action space opera romp through the galaxy.
I'm thrilled to say that Nick’s book is now available on Amazon. He went from a story idea to a first draft in about 10 weeks, and now the finished story is out there in the world.
It’s time to celebrate… congratulations Nick!
I asked Nick if he would share his novel-writing experience with the group... here's the interview:
What inspired you to try writing a novel?
I have a lot of ideas that I wanted to share. A novel is a good way to do that. Nobody else is going to tell me what to write, just me. Although I started a book in 1999 called The Tired Guy, it was not until a couple of years ago that I decided to start writing again. I started another novel but very quickly wrote myself into a corner. It was then that I saw an ad for one of David’s science fiction short story workshops. I promptly signed up, and after enjoying it so much, took a few more that year. I was going to continue with short stories for a while, but gambled on the novel workshop instead, even though I doubted my abilities. In fact, even after signing up and starting to write, it wasn’t until I was well into the first draft that I really started to believe I could actually do it.
What was the hardest thing about writing a novel?
The hardest things about writing a novel were overcoming doubt and finding enough time to write. Days off writing tended to take the story from my mind and made it harder to return. It was in these times that I doubted myself and the story, whether it was good enough, or if I was wasting my time. Sometimes I would hit a rough patch, a poorly-planned section, and it would be very difficult to write. That’s when the self-doubt would kick in. Also, a few days off meant re-reading everything you’d already written to get back into the story.
Can you describe the habits or things you did that helped you finish your story?
Stick to it! I started getting up early and writing for at least an hour before work. This got easier because I found I would wake up with ideas and want them to get them down before forgetting. Also, I replaced bad habits with good, writing instead of watching TV, for instance. Replacing weekend chores with writing also helped tremendously, as getting two or three sections in a row really helped build momentum. Luckily, I don’t have kids, so I have more time for this kind of thing. Heh heh. It sounds pretty cliché, but the more I did, the easier it got, and the faster I became. I also had mini deadlines for myself. Like I wanted to have the first draft done before the workshop was over, and I also wanted to have the second draft done by July 1st. I luckily had a week off work in June which helped me accomplish that, but it was mainly by getting up early anyway. The more I wrote, the less I was able to sleep, which also helped with the getting up early part. The help, feedback, advice, and encouragement given by fellow workshoppers was also a very key piece of the puzzle.
What advice would you give to those who are thinking about writing their own novel?
Think of an idea and do it. Planning is key. Know your characters. Invest time in the plot/section planning. Invest the time daily. My biggest stumbling blocks occurred when I came across a poorly-planned or vague section and had to come up with 1250 words on it. A well-planned section practically writes itself, and I could do the first draft of it in one session. But my biggest advice would be to have fun. Pick something that interests you and will enjoy spending time thinking and writing about because it takes a lot of time! But if you like it, then it is like recreation, not work, so it doesn’t matter that it takes time. Also, don’t dwell on quality when you are writing the first draft. Speed helps (not the pills :). Type fast, get the story down in black and white. Fix it later. Get involved in a workshop or group of writers and meet regularly to help each other.
Some sound advice on getting that first novel written... thanks Nick!
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