Diary of a starter novelist

L&S novelist

Week Two: A slow start to a dead end

By Patrick Vaillancourt, Senior Columnist

Patrick Vaillancourt is a political essayist and seasoned in the arts of non-fiction writing. His first book, a memoir, is scheduled for publication later this year. He is participating in National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, for the first time.

The writing has officially begun, and while I am a little behind on my word count thus far, I still have much of the month to hit that lofty goal of 50,000 words.

I have begun to realize that writing a novel doesn’t really happen by simply writing when you have time to write. This past week, I have let the day-to-day things in my life take a priority over actually sitting down and writing. Each day had something different: errands like laundry and groceries, meeting up with friends, and the hockey game were just some of the activities that have kept me away from writing this novel.

One thing I need to do differently is to schedule the time to write. For the next week, I will be working on the book, without fail, for three to four hours daily. The time is written into my schedule so that I can’t be taken away from it. I will hope that this strategy proves more effective at keeping me focussed.

In the writing I have done, I realize that my story isn’t completely developed. I know a lot about my characters, their likes and fears as well as the little quirks that make them unique. I am, however, struggling to design a conflict that will take the reader throughout the full length of a book. My concept is perhaps too broad, and I fear I may have to go back to the drawing board.

A lot of wine has been consumed in the hopes of finding some inspiration. The novel is a bit dark, and so I have found some ideas in the lyrics of sad songs. Whether it will be enough to inspire me to write 50,000 words remains to be seen.

I have also benefitted from changing the scenery a little bit. Much of this week has seen heavy rains in Vancouver, so I was confined to my home, and while much of my writing is done there, much of my thinking is done while taking a walk or sitting on a bench at Kitsilano Beach. Combining the thinking and writing processes seemed to be a natural fit, and so I decided to take my laptop over to Starbucks for an hour. A good chunk of my current word count comes from that one hour at the Starbucks right next to the beach, sipping on my peppermint hot chocolate and watching the world pass me by from my seat on the outside patio.

Aside from scheduling time and changing the scenery, next week’s plan is to read the introductions to a few different novels. Not the whole book, but enough to familiarize myself with what constitutes a “good start” to a successful story.

With any luck, next week’s article will display a vastly increased word count.