I’m delighted to welcome Triona Scully to my Blog today. Triona’s debut novel, “Nailing Jess”, is out on the 26th June.
Writing a first draft in six weeks.
When my son started school, and I finally got some time back, I was determined to write that first novel that many of us know we have in us, but some of us struggle to allow manifest. I answered an advert in my local library called ‘Write a book in six weeks’, and signed up for the writing workshop run by an Edinburgh based, Canadian writer called Valerie.
The first night was interesting as we were an intimate group of four and I was the only woman. My awareness of this was heightened by the fact that I planned to write a feminist novel. The boys turned out to be every supportive and helpful. There were no cries of ‘Not all men…’ as I explained the impetus behind my idea.
We had to write for a total of four hours a day, six out of seven days, allowing the mind one rest day. We had to record our daily wordcount. No editing, re-writing or scoring out. No re-reading of previous day’s output. Just one continuous flow of words that we added to every-time we sat at a computer. If we followed these instructions to the letter then we were guaranteed to have a minimum of 50,000 words in six weeks.
On our last night’s count in, I had 55,000 of them, and a first complete draft of ‘Nailing Jess’.
In addition to her ‘Don’t feel it or think it, just write it’ approach, Valerie had a set task that had to be completed every week. For example, in week one, we had to write a start, crucible half way moment and an end to our book. By doing this, we were always seeing the novel as a finished story and mapping out how we’d get there. In the final week, Valerie had us read extracts, in order to emulate our future public readings, when we became published authors.
What Valerie was suggesting was the opposite of how I’d learned to write, editing as I went, working from a pre-planned structure. I’d never have thought to write so chaotically, had I not been instructed to do so. I’d never have considered how linear the words in our mind are, if we allow them to free flow.
Strategically following her carefully considered plan ensured the promised first draft, but Valerie’s class meant so much more to me. Valerie was a delightfully eccentric free spirit and her whole ethos was about instilling self-belief in her students. Self-belief is a hard thing for a writer to acquire, and even harder to hang onto in the face of the dog eat dog publishing world. As my book hits the shelves, I yearn for another Valerie course entitled ‘Sell your book in six weeks’, not just for the marketing tips, but for confidence building and the comradeship and all the other benefits a group environment provides for the solitary writer.
Thanks, Triona, for providing a really interesting insight into your writing! I’m really looking forward to reading it very soon!