Tag Archives: writing a novel

Editing is hard

Editing is hard, or should I say, I’m finding this particular part of the editing phase hard. I’m not saying that I’m not enjoying myself, I am, but there is a small part of me that is now regretting not spending a little more time in the planning phase.

For a start, my first draft is so big. It didn’t feel this big while I was writing it. I was very happy, writing away, telling the story without the need to look back at what I had written. Now, however, I’ve started to realise just how big 100,000 words really are (it will be at this point that some of you writers will be going “Pah! 100,000 words? Come back to me when you’ve written something substantial.”) For me, though, as a first timer, it’s a lot. Really. The good news is that I was having doubts about whether the story (as opposed to my writing) was any good, but while reading through the manuscript, I’ve discovered many good things that I had completely forgotten about. The bad news, is that I have an awful lot still to do.

It also doesn’t help that the editing phase I’m involved in, is making the big changes, those changes that I knew I had to make before I get the chance to read through the full manuscript as a whole. I have five more scenes to go, before I finally get to read the finished draft. Five more. The difficult ones (does everybody leave these until last?).

It also doesn’t help that I keep having ideas. I’ve changed the ending of the book. Again. I’ve killed somebody. Not written them out (although that has happened too), but decided that the story would be better if somebody died. I must admit to enjoying picking out the supporting character that was for the chop, and then killing them off. Mwa ha ha ha (maniacal laugh).

The only saving grace to this period of editing is that I have just transferred the manuscript to Scrivener, and it has been a godsend. I have a clear idea of the status of each scene in my book, what needs amending and what is ready for a read through. I can also see how helpful Scrivener will be when I write my next book (yes, it’s still there, tapping away at the sub-conscience, desperate to be heard.) I’ve no idea how the windows version works, but if you are either writing, or thinking of writing a book on a mac, spend your ¬£30 (or a few more dollars) on Scrivener. I can’t recommend it enough.

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.

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.

Celebration

After a three and a half weeks solid writing, I decided to give myself a break today to celebrate finishing the first act of my novel. Yes, 11 chapters, 129 pages and 43,422 words later, I’ve managed to hit the first major milestone.
So, what did you do to celebrate, you may ask? Have a day at the health spa, alternating between the sauna and the masseur? Spend the day cruising around a race track in a super car? Sleep?
Well, it was none of the above. I completed my tax return and bought an iron.
Living the dream….

95 pages and counting….

It’s been a while since I last posted. I won’t apologise, however as I’ve been busy. Very busy in fact. As you may have guessed from the post heading, the book is progressing well. By the end of writing today (i.e. just before collecting the oldest from school) I was at just over 32,000 words which, according to how I’ve set up my word processor, comes to 95 pages. Seeing as one of my early concerns was whether I would have the aptitude to write a book, I’m pretty chuffed with the progress so far.

So, what new things have I learnt:

  1. I really shouldn’t read anything by a great author (Jonathan Frandsen, take a bow) while writing my own book. While it’s a great lesson in the craft, it’s also quite depressing
  2. Chapter 1 needs to be re-written (this is in no way related to point 1), I already know how but I plan to follow the advice from Will Self and just continue writing until I’ve finished the full 1st draft, as it’s more important to get it down at this point.
  3. My characters are taking the story into areas I hadn’t thought of, which is both exciting and a little disturbing (who’s in charge here for crying out loud)
  4. Even though I’m at a much faster pace than I thought I would, I’m still less than a 5th of the way through the first draft (and that’s not including any potential future plot changes). This is going to take even longer than I thought.
  5. The person I thought would be the main character of the story, isn’t
  6. This is a good thing
  7. I’m still really enjoying it

I’m also having a lot of fun playing with the future. Those rabid squirrel / octopus hybrids were a real shocker (this is a joke, before you start to get too concerned, although there could be an interesting short story in that idea for someone who wants to take it up, I won’t charge).

Thanks again to everyone who has been supportive through the process so far. It’s really appreciated.

 

 

3 days, 2 Chapters, 24 pages and 8000 words

I’m a few days into the writing process and here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • I need a few more characters than I first envisaged
  • It’s much easier to write descriptions if it’s based on somewhere I know well
  • Picking character names is much easier with the help of a random name generator
  • When it comes to understanding the more esoteric aspects of technology, wikipedia is my friend
  • I love writing

My plan is to carry on writing all the way through the first draft without stopping. Apparently (according to Will Self) it’s the best way of making sure you capture everything while it’s still fresh. Once complete, I can then spend a lot of time editing and rewriting the things I’m not happy with. However, the temptation to play with what I’ve already written is huge. I already know how I want to alter the first section of Chapter 1 to make it even more interesting and there is a large piece of exposition (also in Chapter 1) that I want to break up and disguise as the book goes on (I must remember: Show not Tell, Show not Tell).

It may be a while before I post again as I really am trying to avoid distractions, but please don’t stop sending in comments, support and tips, either here or through Facebook. They all really are appreciated and I promise to come back to you all properly once I trust myself a bit more.