The literary world is never boring. And social media is never quiet. Put them together and what have we? My new passion is the NovelRace that Aditya and Samit have organized. Several people, serious writers and others are scribbling away furiously (okay tapping away on their keyboards), to see who can complete a novel of 60, 000 words first by September this year. Participants tweet their word counts and some like me, also share their little woes and joys about the experience.
Well…since this is my own, sweet, undemanding blog, let me share what’s on my mind. I’m scared witless. Frightened, terrified, petrified, spooked, horrorstruck, struck dumb (not a good thing for an aspiring storyteller, I’m sure you’ll agree). What if it comes to rubbish? What if I discover that after all these years, I’m not that great at it anyway? Oh horror, there’s nothing worse than losing a dream. Okay, I’ll worry about that later.
Pull back and onto the point. What’s really interesting is what I’ve been learning about writing in the meagre few days that I’ve been in the race. For posterity, some of my big lessons:
1. You can’t write about a character that you don’t like. Get to know your characters well if you are going to tell their stories.
2. A short story can be created from a plot idea and the characters will just sort of fall into place (I know, I’ve done it). But a novel is different, you really need to work on characterisation and build a case for each character in your reader’s mind, for them to empathize with the story. So Character above the Plot is my big takeaway.
3. Writing a chapter is very different from writing a short story. I’ve spent so much time ‘condensing’ my writing…into blog posts, tweets, 55-words, short stories, read-all-in-one-page articles, into concise reports that I have to learn the art of writing with a lot of words and not boring my reader. I am finding it really, really hard to go beyond 1000-1500 word count. And that’s sometimes not enough for a chapter, or well the chapter just seems like fluff.
4. Just because you can string words together well, doesn’t mean you can tell stories well. BIG, HUGE lesson. But ah, I’ll come to deal with this at a later date. For the time being, this experience is valuable for how much I’m learning about writing.
And hey! I got quoted in a Mid-Day article about Twitter and NovelRace for this, today.
There are others who use it to post recipes or haiku poems. In fact, Novelrace followers are even giving each other tips on what would be an ideal length of a chapter and style of writing.
ideasmithy: wonders what is the right length for a chapter. 1-1.5K is as far as I’ve gone with short stories & now one chapter. Thoughts?
allvishal: @ideasmithy Break them up as you like. Wrote a story with 2K chaps once, this one is leaning to 5K. Some may have none or 100.
Signing off now. I have a novel to go write. In the meantime (in a shameless self-plug), go read about my writing adventures on Twitter.
The NovelRace updates: