By guest blogger David SchoemanIn this article I will be discussing the concept of a practice novel or, as I call it, my sandbox.
The biggest mistake we, as adults, make is to let go of our willingness to play.
Sorry, but I’m too busy. The children have their needs, I’ve got my work commitments, family commitments, etc., etc., etc.
The age-old excuses.
So what do you do if you need to learn something new?
You enrol in a course, spend a thousand bucks, a week of training, get a piece of paper at the end and now you can call yourself qualified.
Yes, you are now qualified and, yes, you now have the theoretical knowledge, but sadly you still lack the practical skills. Those skills you can only get from practice, practice and more practice. Not to become an expert, but just to become proficient and comfortable with the tools of the trade. Just like a sportsman who will be training on the field everyday, honing his skills, we as writers also need to be training.
Go back to your childhood and look at how you learned as a child, watch other children and see how they learn something new. They will do the same thing again and again and again, until they get the hang of it.
As a software consultant I’ve learned over the years that to train somebody on using a new piece of software—or when teaching myself something new—I need a sandbox.
A sandbox? But that’s a child’s toy!
Yes. A place where you can play, in safety, without fear or worries. Where you can test new ideas.
So how do you create a sandbox for a writer?
The first rule for any writer is “To be a writer you need to write.” Good or bad, you need to write. This way you gain the experience and develop your imagination.
So what I did was to set myself a target. I wanted to write a novel. Wow, what a sucker. Ain’t he just in for a big, bad, rude awakening. Nope, because this novel is only for me. Whether I one day decide to try to have it published is irrelevant.
My reasoning is this: In my practice novel, I can learn how to develop my characters, how to plot scenes, how to work with chapters and anything else I feel like doing. Let’s say I come across a new idea, then all I need to do is to see where it will fit into my novel and construct the main idea and characters around it.
My characters will quickly tell me whether my idea will work.
The great thing about my practice novel is the fact that I can work on it whenever I get a chance, whenever I want to get away from the misery or drudgery of real life. I can play without fear of critique or censure, without being right or wrong.
The best thing of all? It belongs to me.
So go get yourself a sandbox. Doesn’t matter what you call it, doesn’t matter what it is, just get one and play, play, play.———
David Schoeman was born in Johannesburg, Souh Africa. He married Lee in 1992 and they have three beautiful children. The Schoemans emigrated to New Zealand in 2004, where they first lived in Dunedin for seven years and later moved to Wellington. David is a software consultant by day, a closet writer by night and a small business Internet marketer on weekends.