I have been absolutely terrible at keeping this blog up to date lately, especially compared to my book review blog (Books and Beyond Reviews). Not too long ago now, on my Facebook page linked with this site I posted about a return to writing on my first fictional piece, Our Boy Jack. Now comes the confession – I have lapsed, again. A flurry of activity and drive has not just slackened off but climbed Everest, taken a running jump and somehow found itself plunging not just off the mountain but down into the depths of the Mariana Trench and is still falling.
I think, however, I have stumbled over the problem I am coming up against, and that is the nature of my book. It’s a historical fiction piece. Based on the legend of infamous London serial killer Jack the Ripper, the book is rooted in historical facts. And herein lies my issue. The sheer volume of research to get the known facts of the case correct, but also the details of Victorian London as correct as possible became a drag, especially for my first foray into the world of writing. It was dragging me down, constantly breaking the writing to stop and look something up, fact check something, clarify the plausibility of an idea or thought.
This wore me down a bit, and felt less like letting my creativity run free, and more like a long-running research project. I struggled. All the while, snippets of ideas, elements of new worlds, parts of characters popped in to my head. This is where the positive part of my confessional comes in. Some of these ideas grouped up, ganged up on me and beat my brain in to a corner of my head saying they had to born to the world. Around the same time I became fully aware of an annual event I had loosely heard of before – NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo is actually an acronym for National Novel Writing Month, though in reality is a global concept. The idea being that for the month of November people aim to start and finish a first, unedited draft of a novel, supporting each other through online forums and groups. With those little snippets of ideas coalescing in my mind I knew I had to try NaNoWriMo to turn this into a book.
I already have the title, “Chasing Shadows”, all but set in stone now. It will be set in a steampunk world with a bit of a mystery to unravel. As I see it right now, it won’t be too heavy going with a wide range of central characters from the gruff, to the theatrically menacing, to creepy to comically flashy and brash. Rather than fly by the seat of my pants I am starting to plot some notes: fleshing out the leading role, creating some of the supporting characters, locations, settings and so on. I feel like I am having all of the fun I felt was missing when working on Our Boy Jack. An idea slapped me in the face for the opening paragraph so in my excitement, this has found its way on to the page already, but nothing more is going to be written now until 1st November.
Given that I work full time and will still be working on Books and Beyond Reviews I am under no illusions that I will complete a 50,000 word first draft by the end of the month, but am working to have a substantial manuscript done by the end of the month. More so than I have thus far achieved with Our Boy Jack. It will certainly serve as a kick in the proverbial to sit down and write, even just a handful of words. Every. Single. Day. I hope this builds a better writing habit for me and helps me commit to see this through until I type those two immortal words: “The End.”
This by no means, at this stage at least, signals the death knell for Our Boy Jack. I fully intend to complete this work in the fullness of time. But at this point, I want to flex my creativity, however much or little I possess and craft a story, characters and world from nothing. I was struggling weaving a fictional story around so much fact that I pressured myself to get 100% correct. With Chasing Shadows I can make this the book I want it to be, and I feel excited to see where the story goes. I have some key ideas in my mind for the story arc, but I am fully aware I am along for the ride just as much as my characters will be. I will also try to update any of you interested to know on here with how the plotting, planning and writing is coming along! Here’s to an exciting journey!