Updated: Mar 9
WRITING MY FIFTH NOVEL
With every novel I’ve written (including the ones I will never show to anyone), the title has come to me very early into the writing process, most of the time before I’ve even put pen to paper. And I've never changed my mind about any.
The word(s), or phrase, might have been inspired by a sentence I read, a dialogue or a song I heard, I can never recall the origin exactly. Not that I spend any energy trying, mind you. When I have my title, I’m beyond excited and happy, because I know I’m about to start writing a new story.
The only explanation I have for this phenomenon is rooted in how I begun writing fiction. Or more precisely, in the fact that it took me quite some time to realise that the writing I had been doing was more than it seemed. It’s only when catching up with friends, after a dress rehearsal with my choir, that I uttered the following magical - and entirely unexpected - eight words: ‘I think I might be writing a novel’.
This came as a complete shock to me. First, because it was the one thing I’d dreamed of ever since I was child and I'd managed to convince myself that I couldn’t do (without properly trying, which is the worst part). Secondly, because up until that point, I wasn't aware that it was actually happening, that I was writing a novel!
As with many key moments and realisations in life, the fact that I was writing a novel became obvious to me the moment I uttered those eight words. All of a sudden, I wanted to rush home, forget about the concert (to this day, I still can’t remember what we sang that night) and write. I did rush home, put on my concert gears and, dismissing food entirely, I created a Word document entitled ‘Novel structure’, inserted a table and started organising my ideas. Had I not spent months rehearsing for the concert, I would have stayed home, that night, and carried on with my writing.
I didn't sit at my desk, one morning, declaring that I would write a novel. I didn't tell anyone either that I was thinking of writing a novel. The ideas had been there all along and, not that long before, I had attended a workshop which had showed me I had the potential to write and that people were interested in what I had to say. I tend to think that because writing happened naturally, without putting a label on what I was doing, without needing to quantify it, I didn’t give any room to pressure or expectations. I was just having fun! So much fun…
The title of my first novel came to me a couple of days later, easily as it happens, probably also because I had stored it in my head all these years. I chose it and didn’t spend any time agonising over it. It was the right choice and I was far too busy writing to second-guess it.
And when I started penning my second novel, I didn’t put any pressure on myself to find its title either. In hindsight, I think I probably expected the process to be similar and, in many ways, it was. I believe that ease is a crucial component of writing. And by ease, I mean having a quiet state of mind, free from external concerns and judgements. When I write, I only focus on my story, mainly because first and foremost, I write for myself. I always write with readers in a mind, of course, with a view to creating a story with which they will engage, but equally writing is my thing, my space, my freedom.
I know how lucky I am because, even though I wasted many years not writing, I made up for those years with the quality of the experience itself. And perhaps the latter did inform the former. Perhaps it’s because I’ve wasted so much time, that I’m not prepared to waste any more torturing myself instead of writing. I just want to write!
Three times, the ideal title came to me months before writing a story. The first one was Not to Hold, the second one, I keep for a later story, the third one I'm using for my new novel. And however exciting that new story maybe be, it’s still too early to share its title with you. Sorry...
When a title comes to me, I see the promise of a new story. My heart starts beating faster, my writing brain is switched on and I cannot wait to get started.