At the end of January, my activity time began.
Part of the DYCP application involved setting out an ‘Activity Plan’ table, which planned out the whole period of funding (which for me, is 6 months). In this table, I listed the main stages and tasks with start & end dates and some ‘key milestones’ highlighted. Although it’s not set in stone, it’s been useful to have my plan to refer to as I work through the weeks and months.
Sitting down to begin work on the WHQ Plotstormers course (and therefore the process of planning my very first novel!) felt pretty surreal. I felt so incredibly privileged and grateful to have had my work recognised by ACE and to have been given this time to develop it further.
The first section of the Plotstormers course encourages students to first read and work through the exercises in the free blog series on the WHQ website called ‘So You Want To Write A Novel Huh’. There’s 3 blogs to work through: This Is Why You Need A Plan, What’s The Big Idea and The Casting Call.
The blogs were really helpful for thinking big-picture about my initial ideas. By the end of the second blog, I had a basic idea written down as well as a very basic beginning and end point. The blogs also encouraged me to think about the shape, the weight and the feel of the story I wanted to tell – which I found really helpful and also ripe ground for coming up with ideas to make a note of for later. I had a lot of question marks and maybes.. but my thoughts looked something like this in those first weeks:
Shape: Something like mountains, up & down/forwards & backwards.. In and out, like breath. But could it also be cyclical somehow? Or seasonal – inner and outer?
Or something like a ‘recovery graph’
Weight: Light and hopeful. But also heavy and wearisome. And then hope again? Interwoven with each other..
FEEL: Real.. raw and sore.. but – Hopeful, fertile.. Healing.. Adventurous, determined.. Something like growth..
The blogs also gave some reassuring words about staring out of the window!
The third blog was all about finding out who the main character is and what they want. To do this, there was a lot of staring out of the window and also some free writing to explore and get to know my character a little. I knew my character was going to be female, brown and having grown up in the countryside.. But besides that I didn’t have a lot at this point. So I experimented with writing from her point of view, seeing where I went. I wrote many variations on the characters personality and by the end of the blog I had much more of an idea about their wants and needs. I’d also started brainstorming ideas for a couple of other characters.
And it was finally time to start the Plotstormers course!