Starting to Get the Words Down

If there is one thing that writers know how to do it’s procrastinate. It’s the drawback of being an artist I suppose, you’ve got to wait for your creative juices to flow and sometimes they are very reluctant. Sometimes we, as artists of the written word, feel more inspired to wash the windows or re-arrange our immense book collections than actually sit down and create something. World-building, character-creating, sentence structure, it’s all hard work. How do you actually start getting the words down?

I’m Kelly, one of Retreat West’s social media marketing interns. As part of our internship, Phil and I are embarking on Retreat’s West’s ‘8 Month Novel Course’. This remote course is a mix of creative writing course with 1-1 mentoring and editorial reviews. The first 6 weeks are identical to Retreat West’s ‘Start Your Novel Course’, a selection of planning activities which really help you to get to grips with your story. In week 7 you have to get that blank page up and start writing. The goal for this first month of writing is to complete 250 words a day so that by the end of the month you have 7,500 words of first draft. You then send 3’000 words of it off to Amanda to read. Deadlines are great motivators but they’re pretty terrifying too.

This blog post isn’t an advert for Scrivener, but it did make the ‘blank-page thing’ slightly less scary as I was surrounded by my notes from the first six weeks of planning. Of course, you can re-create this by covering your desk with loads of notebook pages and backs of receipts that you’ve scribbled random sentences on (been there). My desk is super tiny though so Scrivener works for me. Once you are past the planning stage, the weekly course materials mainly provide prompts to help you get going. Whilst there are many prompts you can find online, going through a collection of prompts tailored to exactly where you’re at in your writing journey is invaluable. It also meant I wasn’t staring at a blank page anymore, wahoo!

I had an idea for how my novel should start so using the previous materials and the prompts I drafted my first chapter. I wrote about 400 words and was already getting a bit stuck. Luckily, the course provides an opportunity for you to discuss your plot points with Amanda! After some discussion  I decided that I needed to change the beginning of my novel, ‘Lily Trap’. ‘Lily Trap’ is a coming of age tale and I had started with Lily’s older sister Cassie being sent off to rehab. I thought this was a good ‘inciting incident’, it was all pretty dramatic so I was hoping it would really draw the reader in. I realised however that with Cassie  absent for the majority of the novel, I would be constantly drawn into flashbacks to try and get across aspects of her character and the sisters’ relationship. By altering the novel’s inciting incident so it comprised of a huge argument between Cassie and their parents, the subject of which Lily was not aware, I feel I can maintain the mystery and drama whilst keeping Cassie in the narrative for a little longer. Once this was clear in my mind, the words began to fly.

This blog article is the third related to Retreat West’s wonderful ‘8 Month Novel Writing Course.’ Catch up with the first blog ‘Give your Character a Birthday’ here and the second ‘Kill your Darlings’ here. If you want to find out more about the course in general click here. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then check out the short and sweet six week ‘Start your Novel Course’ on the same page. Also, don’t forget you can receive 5% – 20% off with the ‘Retreat West Author Membership’ packages. More details about membership can be found here.

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