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 🙂

So, how are you?

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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 🙂

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 – this 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 – yes. 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?

Red edit hiccup

I’m still in the red edit zone, so no completed chart just yet. Instead I have these:

Yes, I’m making the grievous error of not just a prologue, or epilogue, but both!

But, let’s gloss over that for now.

My red edits have gone really well, and I technically finished them last night, after a full-on day of reading my own words, cringing, and occasionally being wow-ed.  In fact, there are several pages which don’t even have any edits on them at all!

I added reason and sense to some of the plot points that were somewhat lacking, and a bit of emotion where I’d forgotten to show it. I cut a lot of useless stuff, including a whole character (RIP MC’s boyfriend, but he was kind of pointless, and ended the relationship in the same chapter he was introduced).

Despite all the cutting – some days, I hovered around the exact same number, even though I was writing furiously – I added 2261 words to the story, which means it now stands at just over 40,000! Still too short for a novel, but on my way. By adding four more chapters, I should easily make that up to 45,000.

I swapped around some of the early chapters, but I’m still not completely happy. The opening feels sluggish and dull – but I think it’s necessary to set the scene. Due to the nature of the story, I can’t use flashbacks (which I usually love, so this is hard for me). Perhaps, when I get to the beta reader stage, fresh eyes will be able to point out the problems.

Big question: Prologues and epilogues, love them or hate them?

 

 

The green edits are done!

Green edits

I originally allowed myself thirty days for this part of the process, but did it in fifteen! As I got closer to the end, I reduced the date goal, because I like tidy graphs…

Normally when I edit, I meander around – reading, adding notes, watching TV, going back over the same parts again and again to get them perfect… on the first set of edits, I hear you ask? Well, yes, I am was a perfectionist.

But, no more! I’ve finally learnt. I worked steadily through the comments I made, although some of them still exist because I’m not quite sure how to execute them just yet.

There have been a lot of other changes though, a lot of additions (including, finally, a character’s reaction to an event that affected her deeply, but I ignored in my first draft!), and an awful lot of crossing out. However, the opening chapter is still shockingly bad, and the last chapter is dragging – but that’s okay. In fact, they might even still exist when I’m ready to share with my beta readers.

In the past, I have only shared my work when I’ve gone through extensive drafts, and made it as perfect as I can get. If people so much as point out a spelling mistake or punctuation anomaly, I’m devastated. I consider this to be a huge step forward in my writing attitude.

 

Green edit page
These edits have been nicknamed the green edits, because of the green pen. The next edits will be the red edits. And, because I do love a chaotic-looking draft, I’ll be making the changes on this same print-out!

Years ago – stop me if I’ve told you this before – my favourite subject at school was technical drawing (Yes! I’m so old, that was actually a separate and specific subject!) I loved the lines, the angles, the pencil chaos that became clear when my black pen – in two different thicknesses – created the picture. All the pencil marks were essential to get the right lines in the right place, but eventually they were erased and my cube (in my first year) or my detailed house floorplan (in my last year) was revealed.

I approach editing a manuscript in the same way, and it’s so satisfying when I see the final story revealing itself.

Next up: the red edits, trying to get my first and last chapters improved, and possibly extend the length. It may not be a very long novel – some of my recent reads have been under 50,000 – but I’m currently at 39k. That’s a good novella length, but I’m desperate to get a novel under my belt – my long-term goal depends upon it!

How many different colours do you use?

Do you edit by hand, or prefer to do it all on the computer?