I’m a winner

I had some wonderful news today. I’ve won a competition. Not just any competition, but a competition that will help my writing immensely.

A number of weeks back, I started to look into the editing process, how to turn a rough, clear stone of a first draft into a polished diamond of a book (hopefully). One of the blogs I’ve started following is http://changeitupediting.com by Candace Johnson, after being impressed by her series short series of blogs on effective writing.

Now recently, Candace ran a competition to offer free copyediting for a sample of work for anyone who have either liked any of her posts or who follow her blog, as a way of giving a little back to those who have been supportive to her (as well as being some great promotion for her), and I found out today that I had won.

I am, as you may expect, quite stunned. I rarely win anything I enter. I have spent years buying raffle tickets and taking part in sweepstakes, viewing each occasion as a charitable donation. It’s an arrangement I’ve been comfortable with as I’m very lucky in most other areas of my life, but this occasion I won, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to have Candace eviscerate constructively review my work, once I’ve completed my own editing and re-writing process. It will be invaluable to help me develop further as a writer.

If you haven’t before, please click on the above link and visit Candace’s blog to give her your support. You never know, if you visit her Facebook page, you too could be writing a post like this soon…….

 

First draft complete!

For the first time in my life I can say that after many weeks and 99,190 words, I’ve written a book. I’m now an author. It has a nice ring to it, author, a certain gravitas. I may even add it to my various social media profiles. Now I’m not for a moment suggesting that I’m a good author, yet, and certainly not a published author, yet, but I’m an author.

As for the book, it’s not very good, not at the moment. Characters come and go, terrible scenes of violence occur in the latter 3rd for no apparent reason, and on a few occasions the laws of relativity have been unintentionally shattered; but the first draft of my book is now finished, the first milestone had been achieved. I am ecstatic and relieved in equal measure. I can’t wait to read it.

So what have I learnt from the process?

  • I’ve learnt that I have both the aptitude and the desire to write, two things which definitely weren’t clear when I started down this path. In fact I don’t just have the desire to write, I have a hunger to write. Now that I’ve started, I’ll never stop.
  • I know that characters are like two year olds: you can’t make them do things they don’t want to do. They just wriggle and squirm, squeal in frustration, even lay kicking and screaming on the floor until they get their own way.
  • I know that there is an awful lot of work still to do before I can turn this large, sprawling collection of words into a tight, compelling story, but I’m looking forward to this part the most. Editing and shaping my own or other peoples work is what I’ve been doing most of my professional life.
  • I know that no matter how much you believe you have planned, you haven’t planned enough, but that’s OK. Some of the (fairly fundamental) changes I’ve made while writing I don’t believe I would ever have planned out. At the same time, I don’t believe I would have got this far if I didn’t have a strong outline of each scene, even if some ended getting discarded or re-written.
  • I have also finally found out what the book is really about. It revealed itself to me right at the end. I thought I knew earlier, but I was wrong. For those of you who I confided in, I’m sorry, I lied, but it wasn’t deliberate. Now I just need to make sure to tease out the theme through the whole book during the editing and rewrite process.

So, now for a break. By break, I mean not sitting and writing, not editing, not shaping, at least for the moment. The one thing I have learnt is that you should let a first draft rest for a while. I’ll still be working on the book, though; I have a few timelines to rework, plan out the development of dissatisfaction through to full-blown civil unrest; question a geneticist friend on how to speed up gestation, as well as develop a number of advertising slogans for a fictional product that could change the world. Lots to do.

I had best get started.

This is fantastic. Something for me to remember when I finally finish the first draft. Not too long now……

Marie Taylor, Ink

I have been reading a collection of short stories by Graham Greene, one of my favorite writers. Greene is known for his novels including The End of the Affair, The Confidential Agent, Our Man in Havana, and The Third Man, which was made into one of my all-time favorite movies. He made a discerning observation in the Introduction to Collected Stories which had me pondering for quite a while and I’d like to share it with you.

“With a novel, which takes perhaps years to write, the author is not the same man at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. It is not only that his characters have developed – he has developed with them, and this nearly always gives a sense of roughness to the work: a novel can seldom have the sense of perfection which you find in Chekhov’s story, The Lady…

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The perfect age for writing

In the UK this weekend is Children in Need, a fundraising event for children’s charities across the country. It is a well loved televisual institution that has been running for many years, and receives the support of a large number of celebrities and not so celebrities to raise vast sums each year. For many people it provides a night of entertainment with the opportunity to do some good, but for one group of people it is a night to be feared: parents.

Now, I’m not saying that parents don’t agree with the aims of Children in Need, we do most definitely agree (have you noticed how I’ve suddenly become the spokesperson for all British parents), it’s just that over the course of the night there are many films explaining why money needs to be raised; sad, heartbreaking films, which for many parents are almost unwatchable. Before I became a parent, I would be able to watch Children in Need without issue. The sad films were sad, and would motivate me to donate, and that was all. Now, each case of abuse, each demonstration of neglect, forces a spike into my heart. As a parent you feel each blow, each act of neglect almost physically. You can’t watch the films because you transpose your children in the place of the children in need, and you can’t help but cry at how monstrous humanity can be. Myself, I sit the with tears running down my face (complaining of allergies to my wife), while at the same time wanting to hunt down each and every person responsible for the the stories I see, a tearful angel of vengeance, so to speak.

As these thoughts circled around m brain, it got me thinking about writing, and in particular: Is there a perfect age or level of experience for writing? Now I need to explain myself before I get accused of ageism. I don’t mean a perfect age for writing per se; what I’m wondering is if the is a perfect age for genre writing, and is it different for different genres? For example, many of the most successful crime or thriller writers (PD James, Tom Clancy, John Le Carre, Elmore Leonard) appear to be of a more advanced age. Is there something about that age (experience, the ability to see both the macro and the micro?) that gives them a better insight to the genre? At the other end of the spectrum, many horror and fantasy authors appear to achieve success at a young age (and then go on, and on, and on – don’t worry, I love the genre and am only jealous). Does the flexibility of their youthful minds allow these authors to create believable worlds and situations that draw the reader in (and once trained, allow their minds to continue in this vein)?

And if this is the case, what is the best genre for an early forties male?

Any thoughts?

I love it when a plan comes together

The last two weeks have been a little quiet due to a virus doing the rounds of the family and school half-term holidays, but I’ve been able to crack on again this week with the book. The good news is that I’ve completed just over 65,000 words now (past Lord of the Flies and All Quiet on the Western Front and approaching The Catcher on the Rye, at least in quantity) and coming close to finishing the second act, two things I am very pleased about.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most while writing over the past couple of days is that the break has obviously allowed my brain to subconsciously mull over the story line a bit more. This has led to some great writing moments in which I’ve given free reign to my characters in sections that weren’t fully plotted out, and they end up doing something to further integrate a number of elements that were initially developed purely as flavour, but never planned to be integral to the plot. It’s a strange feeling when this happens, similar to being reminded of something you haven’t thought of for a long time, like a childhood game or your wedding anniversary (joking!), but of course these aren’t memories, they’re just make believe. It’s almost as if you’re hand is being guided in some way. I’m not complaining and long may it continue. All I hope is that I’m divining the same spirit as Stephen King.

I am a starter, but I will finish

When I first started writing my book I spent plenty of time reading blogs, articles, books, anything I could get my hands to help learn how to write a book. There is a lot of good advice out there (some of which has ended up on this blog) but two pieces of advice have stuck in my mind:

  1. Just write
  2. Finish what you started

This may seem obvious; write a lot because the more you write the more you learn and the closer you get to finding your own “voice” (which is important), but you also at some point have to complete what you are doing and let it go out into the wild. It’s very good advice, excellent in fact,

but

If you have ever had the pleasure of working closely with me you will know that I am a starter, not a finisher (I like to think that I’m an excellent starter, world class in fact). This doesn’t mean I don’t finish anything, I have worked hard for many years to make sure I finish what I’ve started, it’s just that it doesn’t come naturally to me. Now before you start worrying, this doesn’t mean that I’m about to go off and do something else. I love writing, I am hooked and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I will finish the book because:

  • The story deserves to be told
  • I love the story and I’ve put too much heart and soul into it to stop now
  • I love the learning process and I still have a lot of learning to do
  • I do not want to confirm to my friends that I am not a writer, but a marketing professional having a midlife crisis

There is only one problem, one tiny fly in the ointment. There is another story that has been marinading in the back of my skull for a while now and it has finally learned to talk. It has a seductive voice that whispers to me during those moments when my mind drifts (first thing in the morning, just before I go to sleep, when I am doing any domestic chore) and the voice repeats just three small words:

Write me instead

It doesn’t help that it’s a great idea (in my own modest opinion). It’s something that is very personal to me but should resonate with many people. It too is a story that deserves to be told, a story that is being written about in the media quite often but (in my opinion) not truly understood. However, it’s just going to have to bide it’s time. My current book needs to be completed first and hopefully I’ll be a better, stronger writer for it. Then, perhaps, I’ll be able to do the next story justice.

So, I stand in front of you all today (metaphorically speaking), to raise my right hand and say “My name is Dylan, I am a starter, but I haven’t started a new project now for 13 weeks and I won’t until I have finished the project I am currently writing.

Thank you for your support!

Time to think

So, for the past few days life has intruded upon my writing. My youngest has been ill and it’s fallen to me to be the one to care for him during both night and day (it’s just a virus if you were wondering, nothing to worry about unless you are 18 months old and it’s in your system.) This has meant I haven’t been able to write a thing, nada, not a sausage. However, I haven’t stopped thinking about the novel, which is good because………… all is not well.
To begin with I realised that I have a plot hole as big as Donald Trump’s ego. Then, in order to fix it, I need to rejig a couple of chapters (they were due a re-write anyway, so I’m not too worried) but worse than that, I have to cull a supporting character. This will be tough, it’s a character I quite like and now nobody will ever get to know them. They have died before they were ever born.
The good news is that the novel will be better for it. Another character will have to take up the slack and this will make them a much more rounded, realistic person. I wasn’t too happy with how I had written them up to this point, you could almost see them twirling their moustache whilst strapping a damsel to a rail track they were so one dimensional (yes, they were also down for a re-write) but now I can have real fun and have a number of ideas to make them a much more nuanced character.
The moral of the story? If you are having trouble with your plot, I recommend sleep deprivation.