Happy Birthday, Novel-of-Mine

IMG_20171105_205600.jpgThis morning I posted this picture on my Facebook page, and thought it deserved more comment.

You see, after sending my novel to beta readers, receiving their feedback and implementing it, this was supposed to be the final quick read-through to check for snags before sending it off to Karen Sanders for editing in the new year.

And yet… at only 39% of the document, I’ve already got over 200 edits! Wow. That’s a lot.

This book officially sprang into life a year ago, during NaNoWriMo 2016. My plan at the time was to take part in the challenge every year, but now I’m thinking that every two years will probably suit me better. I’ve definitely accelerated my writing process, which was part of the plan – now all I have to do is streamline how many times I actually have to edit the darn thing!

Good luck to everyone who’s taking part in National Novel Writing Month this year – it’s always a blast… a tiring, obsessive, chocolate-bingeing blast ūüėČ

 

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? How’s it going, so far?

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To write a novel, don’t write a short story instead!

 

This month, I have mostly been side-tracked by the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, which is a huge international competition that I’ve entered for the past couple of years.

Normally, I’ve had a story that I can refresh for this, and send off without too much fuss. But this year I had nothing. At the beginning of the month, I decided to write a new story for the 1 November deadline.

I sat with my pen in my hand, and an 82 year old woman who lives in a caravan, and who’s been in my head for a few months (I thought she might be a novel, at first), fought herself onto the page. And then a 16 year old boy walked past her van and they started talking.

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Celebrating the first draft…

I’m now editing. I have little notes, as I always do, littering the page that say¬†More Here, and I’m trying really hard to describe the sound of helicopter rotor blades.

Scarily, it doesn’t have a title, yet. On the whole, the title comes first for me, and the story wraps itself into it. Because my octogenarian came first, the title was overlooked. And now I’m floundering a little. What if it never comes? What if I have to send it off with the title ‘Story’?

Deep breath, eat chocolate… ahh, that’s better.

By November, I’ll be back on my novel, which will at that point be officially¬†not¬†a novel in a year, because it began life during last year’s National Novel Writing Month… Where’s that chocolate?


 

Congratulations to George Saunders who has won this year’s Man Booker Prize, with his first full length novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. See, short story writers are awesome!

Novel in a Year, plus another year

With the chill autumnal air approaching, and the kids back to school and –¬†sigh – university, it’s time to get back to my novel.

Over the summer, three wonderful beta readers (Nick, Liz and Ruth) read my draft and gave some awesome feedback. There’s a lot to do. I realised, while scanning through their comments, that I need to go deeper into my main character, and that some of the less engaging parts of her are actually based on me (lol, I¬†think). That said, I should be able to explain those parts much more clearly, and hopefully sympathetically.

Since I received their critiques, I’ve had a lot of extra shifts at work; I was away last weekend and also this coming one; and then another heap of extra shifts after that. It might be October until I get into them properly.

Moments beta comments

These are the merged comments, with all their agreements and conflicts. Doesn’t it look awful? You send off something you think is perfect, and get this back. Then you read them, and find yourself nodding and sighing and wondering how the heck you thought you were ready to send it in the first place.

I’d hoped to have this book ready to query in November, a year after writing the original idea during NaNoWriMo last year, but – as the title of this post suggests ¬†– that probably won’t happen.

But that’s okay. Two years is still far shorter than my previous attempts at a novel ūüôā

So, how are you?

Finished!

I’ve done it! I’ve finished my final draft, and sent off copies to some awesome beta readers!

Ahem, it can be a roller coaster of emotion…

This final draft came in at 47,500 words, and took 38 days. In total, this whole novel has taken 6 months and 1 day to get to this stage – the quickest I have ever written a complete novel (and yes, I’m officially stating that 47.5k is novel length… if you want to disagree, make sure you have tissues!)

I shall now be:

  • Eating chocolate
  • Actually dusting stuff before I vacuum
  • Reading
  • Eating cake
  • Walking
  • Enjoying time with my kids… or at least watching them leave the house with a cheery ‘See ya’
  • Sitting in beer gardens while ‘socialising’ the dog
  • Hopefully writing some short stories and submitting them to competitions and journals.

Do you like how the writing stuff comes last? It’s actually my main plan – I’ve already got my new notebook ready – but I can write while eating chocolate, drinking cider and people-watching in coffee shops!

What are you up to over the summer? 

Oh look, July’s happening!

I always know when I’m neglecting blogging, because my email notifications cease, and my inbox is really quiet! In fact, I’ve been working so hard that the onset of July almost passed me by.

But it’s all been for a good reason – my WIP is flying. Now, whether it’s a good flight or not, I’ll have to wait and see.

In my last blog about my attempt to write this novel in a year, I mentioned that due going back and editing the first part, my deadline would have to be extended – I made it 4th August… but I’m going to completely smash that!

halfway to goal

The flat parts of the graph were where I was editing the print-out, and the big boost straight after was were I made all the changes on the computer. There’s a method here… honest ūüôā

I’ve made some huge changes with chapter layout too – merging some, separating some, going back and re-merging others. It’s a complete mess, although I think I’ve got a handle on it now.

I thought I’d be adding a new character, but in fact he only turned up for a brief conversation. I think I solved the other issue of my MC being too scared too quickly. I’ve noticed I’m overusing the words ‘now’ and ‘of course’. In fact on one page, I used ‘now’ in every single paragraph – d’oh!


In other news, tickets for a signing I’m attending in Bristol in January 2018 are on sale now! If you’re in the Bristol/willing to travel to Bristol area, check out this Facebook page for more info.

The gym where I work, and train, is being refurbished which has caused me great excitement – in fact, some people would say (have said…) an obsessive level, but I don’t care. I’ve already designed my new programme to make the most of the new kit.

I found these – cappuccino milk chocolate digestive thins – scrumptious and yummy, and further confirmation that I love all things coffee-flavoured except coffee!

dav

 

What are your recent snack discoveries?

Because the song told me so!

There I was, working through my book, re-typing and re-drafting… and then three things happened:

  1. It got hot… so hot… my head doesn’t like making sentences when it’s hot. (It’s actually lovely, if all I had to do was sit in my garden with a book and a glass of wine – as I did yesterday – but today I have work and writing and stuff…)
  2. I realised, although I’d merged chapters and scenes to improve the pacing, I still hit the same point where the prose just works and the story flows and everything is great. The first 80 pages are not like that.
  3. However, just after I realised this, I watched The Lost Boys and listened to the theme song, Cry Little Sister, and instantly knew what needed to change – although, oddly, the song and the story have nothing in common!

I have two major things to change:

  1. At the moment, my MC is scared of the Big Threat straight away, I need to make her intrigued at the start, to draw her in and increase the curiosity of the reader
  2. To add a new character. This may or may not pan out, but I think I need someone to act as a sounding board for the issues the MC is facing.

So I now have half a book printed out to revise, and the other half still waiting to be typed up… and I’m not sure which is more important. All I do know, is that I’m not going to hit my 4th July deadline.

How are the temperatures in your neck of the woods?

I finished the Red Edits! Phew!

Red edits

Actually, I finished last weekend, just before I went to London for a few days.

I had a list of specific things that needed to be done:

  1. A new prologue Рthis was the last thing to be completed, just today in fact, due to some inspiration while I was walking to work and hastily scribbled down between clients.
  2. A new epilogue –¬†ish. It’s a page long at the moment, a first draft really, but adds some optimism to the story… I hope!
  3. Making the first eleven chapters more compelling¬†– in the first draft my MC, Jo, has won a prestigious art award and a solo exhibition is part of the prize. This made for a lot of unnecessary explanation and boring conversations. In the red edits, she’s now just hosting her first exhibition, which makes it a lot cleaner. This meant, however, I had to search for all mentions of the award and delete it. I also squished a couple of repetitive scenes into one.
  4. Re-writing the last chapter so it mirrored part of the prologue Рyes. And I think it works well.
  5. A whole new chapter just to break up two rather heavy conversations¬†– just notes, really, at the moment. I’m hoping for inspiration soon!

As I¬†said at the start, I went to London. As we walked down Oxford Street and turned towards Hyde Park, I realised I was taking the same route as Jo does in one of the chapters, and that I’d got a couple of fundamental things wrong (it had been a long time since I was there previously). One major thing was that in Hyde Park, she feels cut off from the rest of the city.

Peter in Hyde Park

As you can see from the photo, there are buildings – lots of them – in full view. As we walked further, I kept my eyes on the skyline and there were very few places where I couldn’t see any buildings. I changed the incorrect passages, so I won’t look silly when Londoners read my book.

So, now I’ve started on the Final Draft. This is where my method deviates from other writers. I have opened a new document and I shall be typing up the book from scratch. I find this gives me a better sense of the flow and the changes I still need to make, than by reading alone. I’m also able to add more words, this way – I’m hoping for 5000 extra, a target of 47k in total (but more would be nice!) in 30 days.

Have you ever spotted silly errors in books you’ve read, or written?

Do writers sometimes get your hometown wrong?