Lessons learned in novel writing via blogging

It’s three years, almost to the day, since I started work on my first novel, The Folks across the River. My eldest son had returned to school, and my youngest had just started nursery. For the first time in at least a year, I had some valuable ‘me’ time. And I wasn’t about to spend it doing extra laundry! As for the idea for the novel; I’d dreamed it whilst on holiday. I don’t think anything gifted to you in dreams should be ignored.

‘So what of the novel?’ You may ask. ‘Why are you telling the story of the novel, instead of working on it?’ Because I believe in the three years since I first sat down to write, I’ve learned a lot. And its a lesson you might find interesting, if you are working on your own novel, or considering writing one in future.

To blog or not to blog?

That was the question I asked myself, back in September 2018. I already had this blog set up, but I originally started it as a tourism blog about Barcelona. Then I realised I really wanted to get back to fiction writing, so I rebranded it as Experiments in Fiction, and posted a few short stories. Other than this, I was reluctant to start blogging, because I rightly surmised that it would take time away from my novel writing. So here’s what I did instead:

I wrote the first draft of my novel in a burst of feverish enthusiasm. It took only three months, but the end product was unpublishable. It contained some beautiful paragraphs, and the overall idea was good, but the execution was amateurish to say the least. I didn’t even try to get it published, but I did keep redrafting it and trying to beat it into shape.

Then big changes happened in my life: I moved with my family to Malaga and started full-time work. This didn’t leave much time for novel writing, so the novel and the blog got shelved. I got through the mundane aspects of working life by assuring myself I’d be a writer ‘someday.’

Pandemic push

The next big change affected not only my life, but probably the lives of every human on this planet: along came the pandemic, and with it strict lockdowns, and (for me) the need to return to writing in order to stay sane. I started The Quarantine Diaries, but was soon drawn back to poetry, which I’d always loved writing since childhood. Not having much self-belief at that time, I was amazed when I started to get positive feedback about my poetry from fellow bloggers. People actually started to follow my blog, and encourage me to keep writing. I was thrilled! You can’t imagine my excitement when I got my first ever poems published. This was beyond my wildest dreams!

When the offer of redundancy came up at work, I took it. This would allow me more time to write, I realised, and I couldn’t wait. We moved once again as a family, this time to Slovenia, and writing about my experience helped keep me grounded through all the mixed emotions this threw up. Furthermore, I never felt alone, because I took my blogging family along with me! A writer can live anywhere, that’s one of the beauties of the job. But until this time, I didn’t realise the value of a writing community.

No man (or woman) is an island

The writing community, and in particular dVerse Poets’ Pub, has helped get me through so many ups and downs, I can’t begin to express my gratitude. And being a member of that community, writing short articles and poetry, has taught me invaluable lessons about being an editor and an author.

As editor of my own short blog posts, I’ve learned the value of proofreading and spellchecking. I’ve learned how not to use a thousand words to say something that can be said in a hundred. And I’ve also learned that stories need to be both skilfully-crafted and attention-grabbing in order to stand out from the crowd. Which brings me back to my novel…

I returned to the novel today with not one, not two, but five different drafts to work with! I was almost afraid to start, because I’m afraid I won’t be up to the task of making it good enough to publish. But the skills I have learned through blogging should hold me in good stead. The point I am trying to make is, when I was reluctant to start blogging, I didn’t realise the value of the connections I would make, and the writing skills I would develop in so doing. I certainly do now. I hope, when the final draft is finished, that I will be able to ask writer friends to proofread and critique my work. All writers should have a circle, and I have found a strong circle of friendship here, thanks to you all!

I will continue to post poetry and a few factual posts, but if I’m absent more than usual, it’s because I am busy redrafting my novel. I hope you enjoyed this post, which started off as the story of my novel, but rapidly turned into the story of this blog!

41 thoughts on “Lessons learned in novel writing via blogging

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  1. I will look forward to hearing how your progress with your novel. You have been a wonderful support to me as a blogger. Your consistent comments on my blogs reassured me that at least someone was listening 🙂I do have taken a step back from blogging whilst I work on a new podcast. I might well be asking you to contribute as an interviewee

  2. The story of your novel, which became the story of blog, was a fascinating and insightful article Ingrid, and I thoroughly enjoyed the read …

  3. We are always growing as writers and blogging daily has no doubt increased your talent! I’m trying to fit in more short stories and then see which ideas I might want to expand into a novel. I do have an itch to writer longer pieces again, there must be something in the air! 😆

    1. It could be! September syndrome? At the moment I’m discovering if writing a poem is like composing a song, writing a novel is like orchestrating a symphony 😅

  4. Oh Ingrid, I am so thrilled! I had no idea you were working on a novel, and now I am so excited!! All the best to you, I am sure your final draft is going to be amazing!!
    Also, your poetry is so beautiful. I am glad you started writing poems on your blog❤

  5. I loved reading about your journey, Ingrid. I know this draft of the novel will be great. And I am so glad I came across you and your poetry. I echo something you wrote: I, too, never feel lonely, there is a whole community of poets and writers around the world we are connected to. I discovered online poetry blogging in 2010 and my life has never been the same. In such a good way.

  6. I love that you are returning to your novel with enthusiasm and a new set of honed skills to bring to the writing! A community is wonderful to be part of in finding support, encouragement, and critique, as well as being able to positively return the feeling. 🙂

  7. This is wonderful, Ingrid. I have a zero draft, or so I’m calling it, and a long laundry list of things to work on. I did learn a system of editing novels from the class that ended this August. While I’m just on the cusp of starting the process, I’d be happy to share with you how it goes. Also, I’m hoping to have my novel ready for beta-readers by December. Please email me if you’re interested and I’d be happy to share resources. kkhartless@gmail.com. I’m so happy for you returning to this project that I know you’ve already poured yourself into. I’d love to read your draft when you get it to a happy place.

    1. Oh yes, I’d be interested, thank you K. I have developed my own ‘system’ this time round, and it would be interesting to compare! Definitely up for a beta read exchange. I will drop you an email.

  8. Writers write, right? 😁 Ingrid, I really enjoyed learning about your blogging/writing/life journey over the last three years. I was familiar with pieces, but not the chronological details that you provided here. I cannot imagine you not writing poetry – I don’t want to! I am proud of your novel persistence. haha No really, you will successfully complete your final draft, however many that takes. Publishing a novel will be a great accomplishment, but I think the greatest reward is in the process, the learning and discovery, the journey. 💖

    1. Poetry does my heart good to write. With the novel, I would probably like to write a novel-length poem, but I’m not Virginia Woolf so I don’t think I can get away with that! ❤️ You’re right – learning the craft is a wonderful journey 🙏

  9. I really enjoyed this post and can relate it. Like you I’m working with turning a wonky first draft into something worth reading. I’m finding the 2nd draft/edit challenging. I keep getting stuck (today I am very, very stuck!).
    Good luck with your writing process. I hope you continue to write about the writing process. You express the problems very clearly.

    1. Thank you Suzanne. Sometimes it takes me hours just to get a few paragraphs right. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’ I suppose…good luck with your process also. Keep me posted!

  10. I had always wondered why your blog is named Experiments in Fiction when you write exceptional poetry! Fascinating to know how you juggled moving with writing.
    My best wishes for your novel, Ingrid. Reading blogs is pleasurable but very time consuming. Be easy on yourself and focus on your novel. ❤️

  11. This is so inspiring Ingrid and I love your lessons learned and your dreams being made visible in action. Kudos to you and your determination. You give a launching pad for others. I so agree the support with our WP community is a gift. I’m not a joiner and I wish I could do D’Verse etc .. love that you all do but love that I learn through all of you that do and carry on in my own way to share my story. Can’t wait for your novel!💖💖💖👏👏👏🌷🙏❤️

  12. Bravo, Ingrid, for pushing on. Some authors refer to first drafts as crappy copies. I prefer to call them discovery drafts–more like a dirty piece of clay ready to mold and later polish. I’m in the midst of revising a polished draft of a middle-grade novel. I am working with a developmental editor after realizing how futile it is to go at it alone, particularly Since I’ll be looking for agent representation.

    1. That might be an idea once I’ve done everything I can with it, thanks. I’m actually finding quite a lot I like in the first draft, I just need to structure the story better!

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