WRITE AWAY, ONE NOVELIST’S APPROACH TO FICTION AND THE WRITING LIFE, by Elizabeth George
One of the works-in-progress that thrills me the most these days is a middle-grade historical novel. I carried the idea for this novel around with me for a year or more before I felt bold enough to put any of it on paper. Then I took one month of early mornings (5 to 7am for the month of November … otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month) and wrote the entire novel. Okay, not quite the entire thing. But I wrote a solid draft and when it was finished I liked it enough to begin worrying. Could I pull this off? Me? A novel? Sure, I can write. Sure, I have read a lot of novels. But could I pull together these parts of myself and create a work of long fiction worthy of publication?
The worrying vexed me, so I put the novel away and worked on other things. And then at Christmastime I stumbled across Elizabeth George’s WRITE AWAY at the bookstore. I bought a copy for a friend. In a moment of optimism, I bought a copy for myself. My fried says she liked it. I loved it.
Elizabeth George’s book is an easy-to-read overview of the elements of fiction: character, setting, and plot. Throughout the text are examples, taken from contemporary and classic works, demonstrating viewpoint, voice, and dialogue. This was all useful, but it was the second half of the book that gave me the courage to take my first draft and fashion an actual novel out of it. In this half of the book, Ms. George outlines her personal approach to novel writing. Her process is involved, intense, anal, and absolutely my cup of tea.
And so I am back to waking before dawn and creeping into my office to work on my first novel. I began by working on character sketches and I have been blown away at the insights this simple exercise has given me. The plot has evolved, the characters have gained dimension, and the story has taken a new and firmer shape. I am ready to, ahem, write away.
Wish me luck!