Today we have a fabulous guest post from novelist, Sophie Lovett, who blogs over at Sophie is, and it’s #BringBackPaper’s monthly linky #PaperyPeep – a chance to revel in paper! Read on…
When only paper will do
As a novelist, an awful lot of my time is spent in front of a computer screen. I am particularly fond of a program called Scrivener which helps me organise and break down my ideas, setting targets and making daunting word count goals seem just that little bit more manageable.
But in the construction of a novel I can’t rely on the computer alone. However useful Scrivener and similar programs are, however much they offer space for planning and editing, there are times in the process when only paper will do.
It starts with the ideas. In the very early stages of a novel these are diverse and sporadic – I basically need to keep my mind open from the minute the germ of an idea starts to form, listening carefully and recording everything it comes up with just in case it ends up being vitally important. During this period I have to make sure I have a notebook with me everywhere I go – whether inspiration strikes in the middle of the night or whilst I’m having coffee with friends I need to have somewhere to write it down.
With my first novel, I collected these ideas over a period of almost three years. When I began I’d made the decision to go part time at work, taking a step back from the teaching career that was slowly consuming me and allowing myself a day a week to give a life to the worlds which swam inside my head. I carefully picked out a notebook which was covered in pictures of vintage cameras – I liked the idea that my writing would be snapshots of the world the way I saw it, my words constructing images which would someday mesh together to create a coherent story.
That notebook contains the germs of many stories, but one that began to stand out was that of Lili Badger. As more and more details started to emerge, I tried to give the story shape the only way I knew how. Using several sheets of A3 paper I constructed a spider diagram which mapped out characters and settings and plot. It took a long while – and a baby – before I finally had the time and head space to begin to turn the ideas into prose, but when I did sit down in front of a computer and begin to write that early paperwork proved invaluable.
The early notes for my second novel were somewhat less structured. I had a plain grey notebook which now contains pages and pages of scrawls – streams of consciousness and what ifs and why nots. My ideas changed direction many times as they began to take shape, and the concept was rather more complex to try to put into words. Still, though, when I was ready to begin to map out the plot more clearly those scrawls began to make a certain kind of sense – and my ideas were richer for the freedom the notebook afforded.
I’ve finished the first draft of that novel now – 90,000 words typed into the computer – and am about to begin the redrafting process. It’s at this stage that paper comes into its own again. I’ve read over the novel on screen, corrected the errors and discrepancies that jumped out at me, but I know that many more will appear when I read it again on paper. I’ve printed several copies out, sent them to trusted friends and family for their feedback. And there’s a copy for me too, waiting for me to attack it with my coloured pens to bring out the best in the words I’ve written.
I already have the notebook ready for my next project. I don’t know much about it yet – only the bare bones of a story inspired by the inscription on a memorial bench which overlooks the sea near my home. But it will very soon be time to begin to find the details in that story, to open myself up to it and let the inspiration flow. I like this notebook because it’s blue, like the sea. I like how it looks a bit like a diary, something which seems to suit the secrets at the heart of this novel.
There’s so much discipline in the process of actually writing a novel. Sitting down and letting the words out, trying not to get distracted or wrapped up in self doubt. The computer is a useful tool for that discipline – I’m not sure I could ever write a whole novel out by hand. But the thinking and creativity that is essential as the idea grows, both in the planning and the editing stage? That’s something for which, for me, only paper will do.
Thank you so much for this fascinating insight into your process, Sophie. I find that I do my best and most creative ‘thinking’ with a piece of paper to hand, rather than a PC or my phone, though I then do all of my blogging on them. It’s good to know that sometimes, only paper will do! You can also find Sophie over on Twitter @SophieBLovett.
Now onto this month’s Papery Peep linky, which is open for you to share anything papery that you like, whether it be your letters, your desk full of stationery favourites, your bookshelves, a favourite stationery shop, an array of journals – whatever you like as long as it’s a papery insight into your world. Just write your post, add the badge from my sidebar there to it, add your post into the linky and then pop round and visit a few others. Or if you’re not a blogger, remember you can use the hash tag #BringBackPaper to share with us on Twitter or Instagram.
Linky closes Tuesday 3rd June.
Next week, we’ve a spotlight on a fabulous illustrator and a papery giveaway from her, along with some new activities to get involved with, so don’t miss it!
If you’d like to guest post or showcase your papery business or hobby here, just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.