I was asked to write a piece for the student newspaper at Portsmouth about how I wrote my novel Judgement. I don’t think it ever got published, so I’ll share an extended version here. It’s just a few hundred words explaining the process and the story. Enjoy!
Last year, I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the third time. The aim is to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. If you’re wondering, that’s an average of 1,667 words per day. It’s hard work, but there is nothing more satisfying than holding a book in your hand and saying “I wrote that.”
Technically, a novel should be over eighty thousand words, so I pushed myself and averaged three thousand words a day. This is not something I would recommend to anyone who cares about having hobbies and friends outside of the internet, keeping down a job or paying attention in lectures. Anytime I left the house, my notebook came with me and the fencing club gave me strange looks for writing in the pub at midnight.
It’s called “Judgement”. It’s a young adult fantasy about a girl who moves away from home and meets two brothers, one who polices the city and the other who polices secret cracks between parallel worlds. When their mother’s death causes conflict between them, it is the girl’s job to stop them fighting before they kill each other… or worse – destroy either of the worlds.
I think the successful completion of the novel hung on the fact that I had a plan. I’ve never had a plan before – at least not one that goes beyond “these are my characters and they are going to get married/killed/embroiled in a plot to overthrow the government”. For the first time, I knew exactly what all of my characters were doing in each chapter.
But that didn’t mean it was always easy. It turns out that some of my characters had their own ideas about how they were going to behave – and just because I’m the writer, doesn’t mean I’m always in control. Sometimes you have to comply with them, just to keep the story moving.
Sometimes you don’t know how to make a situation work and you find yourself asking questions like “How would you kill someone if you wanted to make it look like an accident?” The greatest thing about being a writer is that your friends don’t then wonder if they should call the police.