First step in writing my novel

I’ve been wanting to write a novel for a long time, but I’ve always felt intimidated by the prospect. Thoughts of the following blocked me:

  • ‘Novel writing is for the experts – not someone like me that struggles with writing and does not even have a clear plot or story idea’
  • ‘Better leave it to the professional creative writers’
  • ‘Who am I kidding, I can’t write a novel. I have no experience, and no technical training in this’
  • ‘Every story idea I come up with, it’s already been written or done. What can I bring?’
  • ‘Writing a novel is for the experts, the creative ones, the great writers. I am none of these things’.

Despite all these thoughts, there was still a desire inside me to write a novel that I just could not ignore. And the more I tried to ignore it, the stronger it became. I would catch myself randomly making mental notes for plot ideas and squirreling them away in one corner of my brain. I was constantly inspired by books and films and these would trigger random potential plot ideas. I kept dreaming about writing a novel, instead of actually doing it.

I didn’t (and still don’t) have a clear idea of the story or plot, but I did have a clear idea of who my main character would be: a female protagonist, but I couldn’t find the perfect name for her. For months I searched. I felt I couldn’t start writing, until I named her. But then the other day, I found the perfect name and that was the catalyst I needed.

Today I gave myself a five minute timer, to just ‘write’. I sat at my desk and wrote a single paragraph. It’s an isolated random paragraph, it might not even make it to the final draft, but it’s a start, and I enjoyed writing it.

The main inspiration I attribute to me embarking on writing a story comes from Austin Kleon – who wrote in his book ‘Steal like an artist’: “Write the book you want to read. Write the kind of story you like best – write the story you want to read“. I love this. This is the best advice I’ve come across about writing your own work of fiction. It’s so simple and gives everyone the permission needed to write the story only you can write. I absolutely adore this advice and recall it countless times in my head, and use it as ammunition against those thought demons.

I was hesitant to publicly declare my ambition of writing a novel, as truth be told – I’m writing the novel for me. Just me.  No one else will read it, and I have no desire to publish it (which is pretty presumptuous of me to even say at this point!). I may change my mind, but for now, I need to believe this novel is only for me and no one will ever read it. I need to believe this because it allows me to have complete freedom in what I write, without me being influenced by imaginary readers.  If I think no one else will ever read it, I can write the book that I would personally enjoy reading.

I have a friend who is also writing a novel, and I suggested a ‘writers pact’ with her. Every day we will tell each other how many words we have written, that’s it. No more details. She won’t ask me and I won’t ask her.

For now, I’m keeping the character’s name, details about characters, potential plot ideas, and the story – a secret; at least until I have a good idea of what the story is. All I will say is the genre will most likely either be: dystopian, sci-fi or supernatural, or perhaps a combination of all three. Right now, I have lots of vague ideas, mostly inspired by works of fiction I personally love, but nothing concrete, and nothing that’s original. I’m working on the character first, and already I’m seeing what she’s like. Maybe the story will unfold itself. Whatever the case may be, it’s exciting.

I came across these random quotes from an old diary of mine, I don’t know who wrote them.

“Anything you think of can become a story” – unknown

“There are things you’ll never do, but you can still make them happen by simply putting words on paper”.  – unknown

Austin Kleon
From Austin Kleon’s book: Steal Like an Artist

What we do for others remains forever…

Albert Pine said, “What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal”.

(Quote at the end of Criminal minds season 1 episode 14).

This inspires me, that what we can do for others and the world can and does make a difference, even if we don’t see the difference. But perhaps we can take comfort in the idea that what we do for others does make a difference – even if it’s not obvious.

Bite-size Science

My Latest Pet Project

Bite-size science: explaining biological theories, definitions and concepts in bite-size easy to understand form, accompanied by simple childlike diagrams.

Why?

I love it when something is explained in very simple and basic terms that I actually understand. It was Albert Einstein that said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. I agree.

Even though I am a biologist, I admit that I sometimes struggle in explaining certain biological things ‘simply’ or explaining them at all. Most of the time, I’m just ‘faking’ it, or I understand it, but I can’t really explain it. And other times I feel intimidated by things I read in science papers, and I glaze over and think uh I’m really thick, I just don’t get it. Sometimes all I see is a bunch of posh, over complicated words, and all I’m thinking is – what does that mean?

I think science should be more accessible, for non-scientists and scientists from different fields.

I was inspired by a few books to venture into this little pet project:

1. The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley. His explanation about the science behind what happens when you fast – is so easy to understand, that it makes me feel passionate about biology and want to devour everything there is about this fascinating subject.

2. Inspired by the diagrams in the book: How To Be Interesting, by Jessica Hagy, I love her “deceptively simple diagrams and graphs”. And her diagrams reminded me how I would study for biology exams: I would frequently make diagrams, so I could understand and remember things.

3. Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon. This book inspired me to steal the idea from the book mentioned in point 2.

4. The ART of Non-Conformity. Set Your Own rules. Live the Life You Want. And Change the World, by Chris Guillebeau.

5. Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar, by James Bach.

6. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin

I tested out my drawing skills today: yep very simplistic and childlike – just what I was going for. (I have poor drawing skills, so I’m going to pretend that I’m making the drawings childlike on purpose).

Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1
Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1

 

*IGF-1 has growth-promoting effects on almost every cell in your body. It keeps your cells constantly active. You need adequate levels of IGF-1 and other growth factors when you are young and growing, but high levels later in life appear to lead to accelerated ageing and cancer. 

“Fasting makes your body reduce the amount of IGF-1 it produces”.  (*Quote taken from The Fast diet by M. Mosley). 

Doing this pet project, is also a great way of motivating me to study and remember things and gives me a purpose for all the copious notes I love to make – that serve no purpose, other than the fact I love making verbatim notes. I don’t know why. I just like collecting quotes, ideas, thoughts, facts, theories, maybe for those times when I need to recall something – I have them at hand to quote from.