Today is the last day of March, so it’s time to review the ‘experiment’. Have I met the targets I set myself? Has it had the desired results? Well, let’s see.
Firstly, I have been writing. Not every day, but more days than not. Sometimes, it really was just a few hundred words, no more than two or three paragraphs. Other days, I was on a roll and wrote over a thousand. I had two bonus writing sessions at work when I was asked to invigilate in a mock GCSE exam, which involved watching over a single student in a private room; I like to think I was providing moral support by scribbling alongside her. In total, I’ve written over 15,000 words. It’s nowhere near the 50,000 I have managed to write in the same period during Nano Wrimo, but it’s 15,000 words that didn’t exist at the start of this experiment. If I’m judging this by word count, that’s got to be a good thing.
Of course, word count is irrelevant if the words are no good. Of those 15,000 words, I would expect less than a half to make it into a first draft, and even less into a final draft. But that doesn’t matter. I need written words before I can start improving and editing. And some of what I have written this month was purely for myself with no intention of it being included the novel. Something I like to do is write a scene from a different character’s viewpoint. It is a good way to get an insight into their personality, and helps me judge if what they say is really what they are thinking. I also use this technique to develop backstory. The more I know about my characters, the more depth they have. I have written about my main character’s families and things that happened before they were born because these are the things that shaped the way they turn out. These details may only make a single sentence in the novel, but knowing them helps me know my main characters better. I enjoy this type of writing, and it never feels like a waste of time. As part of the experiment, it has been the biggest achievement. My characters have become more solid, more established. I discovered things about them that I had never considered before. I even discovered a completely new character. I realised that what I thought was an old-fashioned romantic love story actually has a feminist agenda and that’s definitely a good thing.
However, there was one other goal that this experiment was aiming for, and that was to stoke the fire and get it burning so hot and bright that it couldn’t be extinguished. And I’m just not there yet. There are still no chapters, only extracts with nothing holding them together. For me, a novel is only on its way when it is carried along by chronological chapters. They drive the narrative forward and they give purpose and structure. Without them, I am still only making notes, not writing a novel. So that part of the experiment has not worked. I’m still not inspired to start writing the first chapter. I don’t know why. I suppose I could, if I really pushed myself, but this was supposed to be the push. So I guess that the inspiration is still not strong enough. And without it, it’s hard to ignore all the other distractions that life throws at us, like work, family, homes, Twitter! I have an almost full-time job, so the time for writing has been drastically cut. And in the rest of my time, I have three children to look after. They might be old enough to entertain themselves these days, but the washing and ironing that they produce can take up many hours of my free time. I abide by the J K Rowling principle that writing comes before housework, so my house is never tidy, but even so, there are too many things that just have to be done and seemingly no-one else to do them. If I was really inspired, I know I would find the time. But getting to that stage is proving difficult at the moment, even when I’m really trying.
So has this experiment been a success or a failure? I think I’m going to have to admit to mixed results. But I’m not going to be too gloomy about it. The positive results have been extremely useful. And maybe I was being unrealistic in my ultimate goal. I might not have achieved what I set out for, but I am definitely much closer than I was before I started. Maybe it just needs a bit more time. And maybe also a bit more research. My historical setting could do with some concrete facts, and I have bought some books to help with that. Maybe it’s time to take a break from the writing and do some reading instead.