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In April 2002 I began writing a novel.

At the same time, I began writing a column about the process of writing the novel. My column is published monthly at Author Network

The first piece - A Novel Idea - is below.

You can read the other columns by following the links at the end.

                                            * * *

A Novel Idea

My name's John Ravenscroft. I'm a writer, I'm 48 years old, and I'm about to start working on a novel. Let me say that again. I'm about to start working on a novel. Eight words, quick on the tongue, easy to type. I like the sound of them - but if I'm honest they also scare the hell out of me.

It's not that I'm a novice when it comes to creating fiction - I've written short stories, won prizes, had publications - but I've never produced a biggie before. I'm a small-scale kind of guy, someone who trots out 2,500 words and then types THE END. Once in a blue moon I'll give you 3,500 - but after that I'll need to take to my bed for a week, probably with a hot water bottle and a couple of crates of Guinness.

I like short stories. In fact, I love 'em. They're the miniature ponies of fiction, and you can get used to bringing little ponies into the world. But a novel? Let's face it, a novel's a horse of a different colour. At 100,000 words we're no longer talking ponies. We're not even talking Toskhara Arabian Stallions. If short stories are ponies, then novels are carthorses - although I hope mine won't be a lumbering plodder. But the point is, novels are BIG, and here I sit, hoping to get myself impregnated with one. Planning to gestate it in my manly womb for, what? - nine months? a year? more? Preparing to feed, nurture... and eventually, God help me, deliver it.

And what's more I'm going to be doing all of the above in public. I must be mad.

When I approached Karen Scott, Author Network's editor, and asked her if she'd be interested in a monthly column, one of the ideas I put forward was a kind of Notes-on-Novel-in-Progress piece. A regular column detailing the highs and lows of my ongoing struggle to move from first thoughts to completed book. I had selfish reasons for wanting to try this. Not to put too fine a point on it, I'm a lazy so-and-so and I thought the pressure of having to produce a public progress report each month might make it a little more likely that I'd actually make some progress.

Much to my surprise, Karen said yes.

And so here I am, writing the first column in a series that will go wherever my novel goes - and one that I can't, at the moment, see the end of. In fact, from where I'm standing I can't even see the spot I need to reach in order to build column number two. I type these words with a few hazy ideas as to the kind of novel I want to write swirling around in the mist, a few even more hazy notions regarding characters and situations - and that's about it. But by this time next month I'll have made some progress. As I build my second column I'll be able to look back through the mist and see my first still standing, and I'll know that I'm on my way, heading... somewhere.

Yes, somewhere. I don't know where, but I know it's going to be an interesting journey. A journey of discovery. And I'm hoping you'll find it an interesting enough journey to want to tag along.

(You can tag along by clicking the links below...)

1. A Novel Idea               April 2002

2. Ideas in the Mist          May 2002

3. The Charged Image      June 2002

4. Bewitched                   July 2002

5. Writing Sexy                August 2002

6. Tortoise / Hares           September 2002