I've been planning 'Project B' for a while now - and thinking about it even longer. It's been important to me not to rush headlong into into this new novel, partly because it's a departure from my published (or soon to be published) rom-com novels, but also because the experience of having to rewrite Home for Christmas a couple of times has made me realise how important it is that you get the 'thinking' about a novel right before you sit down and start writing.
I know some writers (my favourite chick lit writer Lisa Jewell included) sit down with the sketchiest of ideas and just start typing but that doesn't work for me. I need to know WHY I'm writing the novel I'm writing - what is it that is going to force me to give up large chunks of my social life for months on end? What is it that's going to get me out of bed in the middle of the night to write down an idea for a new scene? Who are these characters that chatter in my head as I walk to the shops and what do they want? Am I excited enough about this idea to see it through from beginning to end (including that awful sticky bit at 30,000 words in where you just want to chuck it in the bin)?
So yes, I've been thinking about Project B for a while and started plotting it (not entirely, I like the characters to surprise me) while I was on the writing retreat a few months back. Plotting was somewhat successful and spelled out the first couple of chapters but there were still things I needed clarifying - who were the characters, what did they look like, what did they want, what were their emotional arcs? - so I did a bit of paper-based brainstorming/mind mapping, did some fact-based research on the Internet/twitter, went on Flickr and printed out 'photos' of my characters, drew a map of the main location in the book and downloaded mind map, index card and storyboarding apps for my new IPad and bought an 'ugly toy' to represent my internal editor so I could throw it across the room if it dared tell me that my idea/writing/story was rubbish.
Hang on! 'Bought an ugly toy'?
Because that's, you know, vital preparation for novel writing isn't it?!
You can see what happened can't you? Instead of getting on with writing my novel I was making excuses why I wasn't ready yet. I still had to research x, plot y or buy z. If I didn't actually start WRITING project B I wouldn't have to face my very real fear that the final book wouldn't live up to its potential in my imagination. And if that happened I'd have failed. And no one wants to be a failure, even if just in their own head.
So you know what I did? I gave myself a start writing date - non negotiable.
And, like I did with Heaven Can Wait, I've given myself a tight deadline. 10,000 words a week, for 7 weeks, to produce a first draft of 70,000 words.
And it's allowed (supposed) to be shit.
This novel isn't under contract, it hasn't been promised to any publishers and the only people who know any of the plot details are my agent and my boyfriend. This is a novel I'm writing for me. It's a story I have to write. And yes, it might be the worst thing I've ever written but it might also be the best and I won't know unless I face my fears and write it. Starting today.
How about you? What are your fears stopping you from doing?
*(500 / 70,000 words written before breakfast. 1,500 left to write today.)